When you think of an “essential business,” pet care providers don’t typically come to mind. Sure, you’ll need to access pet food, but that’s available at most grocery stores. If you need medical services, your animal hospital will be available and ready to help. But what about other pet-related needs? Individual states are addressing veterinary services as they see fit, but one type of pet service has gained a lot of attention in recent weeks: pet grooming.

Pet grooming can be an essential part of a pet’s health, but it can also unnecessarily expose workers to risk – both medical and financial. Below, we’ve broken down the arguments for why pet groomers should remain open or close down. If you’re having trouble making your own decision on the matter, this will walk you through your options.

Argument: Why Pet Grooming is Essential

Depending on the type of pet you have, regular grooming could be an essential part of their health. Grooming helps maintain a healthy coat and skin, and regular nail trims can help to reinforce posture and healthy foot structure. Moreover, regular grooming visits can help pet parents catch health issues, like ear infections, skin infections, and tooth problems, without needing to visit a veterinarian. People advocating for this argument are creating online petitions to allow their pet salons to stay open.

Additionally, allowing pet grooming to be an essential service keeps more people employed, allowing workers to continue receiving a steady paycheck. Unemployment is becoming increasingly difficult to access as more of America’s work force is laid off or furloughed. If pet grooming businesses can stay in business, they can continue to pay their employees.

Argument: Why Pet Grooming is Non-Essential

Working with animals in the middle of a pandemic poses a range of challenges. Pets typically remain in proximity to their owners, and with more people working from home, people are cozying up to Fido and Fluffy a lot more than usual. If a pet’s owner has COVID-19, the virus could potentially live on the pet’s fur for an unidentified period. If a person with the novel coronavirus brings a pet to the groomer, they risk exposing the staff to the virus – even if the person does not enter the grooming facility.

Additionally, pet groomers say that the work they do, especially bathing and nail trimming, can be easily completed at home. These workers are typically paid minimum wage jobs and are not provided with the personal protective equipment necessary to remain safe during the pandemic. If they get sick, they won’t likely have the health insurance necessary to get tested or remain financially secure during coronavirus treatment. What’s more, most pet grooming services are provided by large companies who put profits over the health of workers, allowing few opportunities for employees to voice personal concerns. Companies are interpreting the language around essential business operations to remain open and generating revenue, potentially putting thousands of workers around the country at risk.

The Verdict

Like most conflicts amid the pandemic, the decision to allow pet grooming as an essential service – and your decision to take advantage of that service – is highly individualized. Pet groomers should do what they can to assess employee concerns and act accordingly, either closing their doors to protect workers or remaining open to continue financial support for employees.

Of course, this isn’t always possible or a high priority, especially for larger grooming providers. If your local pet groomers are scared for their safety, avoid using the service as much as possible. This decision may also depend on how many people in your community are infected with the coronavirus. If you live in New York City, pet grooming probably isn’t essential right now. If you live in Morgantown, WV, you might feel more comfortable about dropping Fido off at the groomer.

To that end, if you can go a couple of months without visiting a pet groomer, this is likely the best course of action. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on a local business to stay open if they don’t need to. If you’re looking for ways to support your groomer through the pandemic, consider buying a gift card to redeem later in the year.

Most importantly, do what you need to keep your pet healthy and ready to resume their duties as your travel companion later in the year. If grooming is truly a part of your pet’s health care, call your vet to see if your local animal hospital is providing any grooming services. The workers at these hospitals are typically provided the personal protective equipment necessary to stay safe.