I have been working with animals most of my life, doing anything that was available to do at any place that would train me to do it. I have always felt more of a connection with animals than people and I loved the idea of merging my passion with my profession, allowing me to get paid to do what I loved.
I started when I was 7 years old volunteering at an animal shelter near my home. I have always been more of a dog person but my most vivid memory of my time working there, besides the early morning doughnut run on the way to the shelter, was the white fluffy hair on a pink faced kitten with ringworm. I was instructed to only handle the kitten while wearing gloves but was encouraged to give her as much attention as possible since she was sick. While holding the soft animal that seemed so innocent I never could have imagined the animal abuse I would see take place and I definitely wouldn’t have imagined that someday I would work at a place that would hit, choke, and even kill animals. Looking back now, through the eyes of an adult who no longer believes there is good in everyone, what’s even more unbelievable to me was that I couldn’t do anything about it.
My first professional gig working with animals was at a pet shop that sold puppies and kittens. I know now how terrible places like this are and that NOBODY should EVER buy a pet from a store. I could write an entire article on what really happens there but I will save that for later, just keep in mind, this was my first job and I was just beginning to see what disgusting things people are capable of doing to pets, I just wanted to get paid to play with dogs, I wasn’t trying to save the world just yet.
As I acquired more skills and the timing lined up, I found myself hired on as a bather at a local pet groomer. My duties included washing and blow drying pets as well as clipping nails, cleaning ears, and cleaning the facility at the end of the day. I got paid cash per dog and I was bringing home more money that I ever had before, this was perfect for me. I even liked my boss because she reminded me of my parents who lived about a 2o hour drive away from me, little did I know she was beating, choking, and hurting all of her clients dogs as she groomed them.
I worked in the back as a bather so I was as oblivious to the abuse as the customers were at that point but once I seen it take place, they (3 of the 4 groomers that worked there, including the owner) no longer hid their behavior and it became a regular display getting more violent each time. After expressing my disgust to the staff and to customers that either didn’t believe me or didn’t care, it was obvious to me that I would lose my job if I were to continue to run my mouth and threaten my coworkers like I had been. I decided to contacted animal control and the department of agriculture to report what was going on and knew that if I quit, they may look at me as a disgruntled employee and assume I made this up. I reported what I had seen and left many messages with people who were unwilling to help until finally someone from the department showed up and took a tour of the facility.
I told him stories of dogs being repeatedly beaten with hair brushes, cats hanging by their necks from the noose of the grooming table while being screamed at by the groomers and named names, I explained to him that stopping in unexpectedly would be the best way to catch anyone in the act. I offered to record things that took place with his help as I didn’t have access to a camera in those days but he insisted on coming back several times to catch what was taking place in person. He assured me that something would be done but as I feared, he never returned. I couldn’t get anyone to help me and it was clear that nothing was going to change so I began telling anyone who would listen what was happening and hoped someone who cared would help. Eventually I quit because I couldn’t handle it anymore and knew if I didn’t get out of there I would be the one getting into trouble, not for hurting the animals but for assault and battery of my coworkers.
Unfortunately that was just the beginning of the abuse, torture, and murder of animals I would see in my career. A few years later, I began working as a vet tech for a local animal hospital who sometimes treated the animals hurt by the groomers I used to work for. I worked there for three years, long enough to have hundreds of stories to tell but it seems fitting to end this with my last day there. A woman came in holding her yorkie pup, covered in blood and missing his ear, the groomer had clipped it off while giving him a shave down. I rushed the injured dog to the operating room for immediate care and returned to the lobby where the woman was one the phone. I waited for her to finish her conversation, she was talking to the owner of the grooming shop and wanted to make sure they could get her dog back in that afternoon to finish the haircut because she was throwing a party that evening and wanted him to look his best.
Would you take your pet back to a groomer you have been warned about or would you play it safe and never return?