Is Dog Grooming Essential? PetSmart Says Yes, Pressuring Hundreds To Come In To Work

Molly Redden

As the coronavirus pandemic rips across the country, governors in nearly every state have ordered the closure of all but the most essential businesses. On Monday, however, PetSmart, a big-box retailer of pet supplies with 1,650 North American locations, reopened hundreds of its dog-grooming salons.

The decision increased traffic to the stores and infuriated employees who say they are risking exposure to a deadly virus to perform a nonessential task.

Should they be questioned, PetSmart told employees, they should tell authorities that pet owners can’t brush their dog’s fur or clean their teeth at home, and that grooming will help reduce the spread of viruses. These talking points, reviewed by HuffPost, are bogus, groomers said.

“It sounds like a lot of corporate excuses to justify what they want to do,” said a groomer, who like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re just smelly and need their nails trimmed. There is nothing that we do that a dog owner cannot do at home.”

Groomers, some of whom have a base pay of less than $10 an hour, say there is no way to perform their jobs without coming into close physical contact with pet owners and other workers, which risks spreading the virus. In many states, PetSmart may also be flouting governors’ orders against operating nonessential businesses. 

By reopening its salons, PetSmart has joined the ranks of numerous companies that are stretching the meaningof “essential” business to keep operating during the pandemic.

Everyone in our store is pretty angry. It’s ushering people out of their houses. It’s giving them a reason to be out and about and moving the virus around. PetSmart groomer

As of Wednesday, governors in 45 states have told residents to stay at home and have ordered total or partial shutdowns of nonessential businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Most states have classified PetSmart and...

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