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Pet store chains argue dog grooming is "essential" in pandemic

How U.S. states are containing coronavirus
How U.S. states are containing coronavirus 04:08

Getting a professional haircut or pedicure isn't possible in most of the country these days — unless you happen to be a dog.

While much of the country remains under stay-at-home mandates allowing only businesses deemed "essential" to operate, pet supply giants Petco and PetSmart are making the case that pet-grooming services are vital to the health and well being of pets.  

PetSmart on April 6 re-opened grooming salons in some of its more than 1,660 locations after closing them for two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic that prompted stay-at-home orders in a majority of U.S. states.

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Before and after photos of Lola, an 8-year-old Yorkie. PetSmart

"Unlike hair and nail salons for people, several localities have identified professional grooming as a vital part of keeping pets healthy and have permitted pet salons to continue to operate," a spokesperson for the retailer stated in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "However, more than half of our salon locations remain closed to comply with government orders and to respect the wishes of some of our associates who have chosen not to return to work at this time."

Both PetSmart and Petco said they had implemented social distancing and safety measures in stores and grooming salons.

"Universally recognized as essential"

Petco's stores "have been universally recognized as essential and we have remained open to serve pets and their families during this unimaginable challenge," a Petco spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Petco, which operates more than 1,500 locations, has closed some grooming locations because of recommendations by local authorities.

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According to PetSmart's website, regular grooming is a "vital part of keeping pets healthy." The company also pointed to the American Veterinary Medical Association, saying the organization "has advised pet parents to continue to ensure their pet is well-groomed during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The veterinary group, however, took issue with PetSmart's characterization, and said its advice had been misconstrued.

"We were trying to convey the importance of keeping animals clean and longer hair coats brushed so as to avoid matts," a spokesperson for the AVMA said in an email. "The statement was not intended to address the idea of pet grooming as an 'essential business'."

Petitioning the governor

As with any animal-related controversies, the debate has engaged both sides on social media, with some pet owners, for instance, petitioning Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to designate dog grooming as an essential business in the state. On the other paw, some workers are urging an end to grooming services for now.

In dog-friendly New York, which is under a stay-at-home order, state officials told CBS MoneyWatch that "for the time being pet grooming is still a non-essential business except in emergencies where it is medically necessary."

While PetSmart did not break out which locations still offer grooming services, an online appointment was easily made Friday afternoon for 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 21, at a PetSmart in Jacksonville, Florida, for a $98.00 bath, brush and "furminator" for Fifi, a fictional 15-pound Akita for reporting purposes. 

Other retailers have also attempted to continue running despite local stay-at-home orders, with Hobby Lobby reopening stores in parts of the U.S. while making the argument that it is"essential" because it sells make-your-own mask supplies.

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