Like many dogs, Moose, a 175-pound Newfoundland, is long overdue for his spring grooming.
Owner Danelle Knutson of Burlington has been unable to take him in for a haircut because pet groomers were deemed nonessential businesses and ordered to shut down in late March in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Knutson said leaving her dog ungroomed is a concern as temperatures increase — which can be uncomfortable for dogs with thick coats — and flea season starts. She said grooming him at home is not an option.
“Because he’s so big and has so much fur, it’s time consuming,” she said.
June 1 is the earliest pet grooming may be allowed to resume, under Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan for reopening the state. During Phase 2, businesses such as hair salons and barbershops would be allowed to reopen, and restaurants would be able to operate dining rooms at half capacity.
Area pet groomers say waiting lists for appointments are long.
Germaine Kornegay, owner of Animal House Pet Grooming in Sedro-Woolley and a Sedro-Woolley city councilmember, said she worries she will be overwhelmed with demand when her shop is allowed to reopen. She works alone.
Kornegay said she sees pet grooming as essential because it falls under pet care. And pet stores, veterinary clinics and boarding kennels were all deemed essential.
“I’ve seen some of these dogs walking around and I feel sorry for them,” she said. “This is my job to fix that ... Maybe I wasn’t essential (at the start of the shutdown), but I am essential now.”
She said even before the shutdown started she was wearing a mask and meeting customers at their cars for pet pickup and drop-off.
Kornegay said she has contacted other area pet groomers to encourage them to apply to the state to be approved as an essential business.
“It’s hard because we all have loyal clients and what do we tell them?” she said. “Sorry your dog has to suffer or go to Petco.”
KING 5 TV reported Wednesday that Petco has been illegally providing dog grooming services, and was told by the state last week to cease and desist.
In La Conner, Fifi’s Bubble Palace has turned down clients who offered to pay under the table to have their pets groomed, said owner Carmen King.
“I don’t think it’s ethical and I would lose my business license,” she said.
King said it’s frustrating that large pet stores have found ways to get around the rules, while small businesses that follow the rules struggle to stay afloat.
King also applied to be an essential business, and received an automated response.
“We believe that the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 is to temporarily limit interaction as much as possible,” a screenshot of the email from late April read. “Therefore, services like dog walking, training and route pet grooming are not essential.”
Businesses providing dog walking were allowed to resume last week.
King said she is setting up her shop for no-contact pickup and drop-off, and plans to take payments over the phone.
She said she has never allowed dogs to intermingle, and plans on limiting the number of appointments each day and sanitizing dog crates after each use.
King said she closed her business before the shutdown out of fear for the safety of her husband and an employee, who both have compromised immune systems.
“I’m just going to do the most I possibly can to keep everybody safe,” she said.
Bob Wilson of Birdsview, a client of Animal House Pet Grooming, said with no-contact pickup an option, he would feel safe taking in his labradoodle Lucy, who needs a haircut and her nails trimmed.
“(Pet grooming) is essential as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I think it would be a whole lot safer than having someone do your hair.”