Owners urged to research choice of pet-care provider

'Don't bite me you little s*** ... I'll throw you right across this table ...'

A Toronto resident is upset and disappointed after hearing a message on her answering machine of a pet grooming company employee swearing at, and perhaps abusing her dog.

Carol Frilegh says she dropped her five-pound toy poodle at a Leaside-area dog groomer recently and went about her daily routine.

When she arrived home, Frilegh checked her answering machine and was astonished to find an employee at the groomer had forgotten to hang-up after deciding not to leave a message, and had inadvertently recorded a behind-the-scenes account of a dog groomer verbally berating a dog.

On the recording, saved by Frilegh, an angry-sounding groomer is overheard saying: “Don’t bite me, you little s***. I’ll throw you right across this table.” Frilegh then hears a dog yelp, and the employee say, “Stop right now … don’t! Stay in there.” The employee then realizes the phone is off hook and hangs up.

“It sounded like my dog,” Frilegh says.

Frilegh forwarded the message back to the employee and owner of the grooming salon, but says the groomer offered no apology and simply stated that this is the way pets are treated at the groomers.

Frilegh says a friend had recommended the groomer and she had been using them for about a year. “(They were) always pleasant and lovely. If I hadn’t heard the message, my impression of them wouldn’t have changed,” she says.

Frileigh urges pet owners to do research on prospective groomers and dog-sitters: “It’s really important when we trust our pets in someone else’s care”

It’s definitely buyer beware’

Shelly Hawley-Yan is a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada. “Since pet-sitting is an unregulated area, it is definitely ‘buyer-beware’,” she says.

“Whether the company has been around for a long time is kind of irrelevant in some ways; personnel change over time and attitudes and policies change. Unless there is outright, documented abuse, sufficient to call in the SPCA, there is really nothing the owner can do after the fact.”

Frilegh says she called the Toronto Humane Society but was told that since there was no proof the dog on the answering machine was her dog, she had no legal options.

Hawley-Yan says that since there are no regulations that govern pet grooming and pet sitting companies, so she recommends owners research potential groomers or sitters.

“Ask whether any of the staff are qualified in a particular way – such as having training as a vet tech, behaviourist, grooming training etc.,” she says.

“In the end it comes down to trust and a bit of ‘gut-feeling’. If your dog or cat doesn’t like the person you have chosen, you should listen to that too.”

Melissa Tkachyk is Campaign Officer of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). “This story has convinced me that I need to do my research before hiring a pet sitting service if I ever needed one,” she says, agreeing with Hawley-Yan.

Liz White is a Director at the Animal Alliance of Canada. Her primary issues include municipal animal control by-law matters, hunting issues, fundraising and finding legislation for endangered species.

She urges owners to look for companies with experienced, trained staff. “Part of (animal care) includes dealing with animals in a respectful way,” she says. “You need to insist that you go in and look (at the facilities).”