Open letter to the Government of Ontario to classify health related grooming as an essential service

Today we are once again imploring the Government of Ontario to classify health related grooming as an essential service in the province. The letter below was sent along with an attachment entitled “How Groomers Keep Pets Healthy”. 

** The letter and attachment will be adjusted and translated into French as we engage the Government of Quebec on this very same issue.  Please forward this to your colleagues as we are encouraging groomers to write to their local MPPs using similar messaging and to also include their own pictures of the harm delayed grooming is causing. We will keep you apprised of developments as they come via our social media channels.


January 8, 2021

Mr. Doug Ford
Premiere of Ontario 110 Wellesley St W,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Dear Premiere Ford,

We write to you today from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC) to bring to your attention an urgent public health issue for Ontario’s animals. PIJAC Canada represents over 650 pet business members in Ontario. As the province fights to contain COVID-19, we understand that restrictions play a critical role in keeping our citizens safe and we deeply respect the tireless work of our civil servants. As these measures have been incrementally implemented, a gap has opened up with respect to the health maintenance of pets. We have received concerns from these members about the lack of available preventative care options. We hear their concerns and share their sentiment.

Earlier in the spring we wrote to the Solicitor General’s office with respect to the need for pet families to be able to access grooming services. When we refer to these services we are referring strictly to health related care and not cosmetic. At this time, the legislation indicates that only veterinary staff are allowed to perform grooming services. With over half the province owning at least one pet, this leaves thousands of animals in need. Without regular non-cosmetic, health-specific maintenance of, hair, skin, nails, and feet for dogs, cats, small mammals, and even birds, health issues can arise quickly. As veterinarians have been advised to only take urgent cases, they are not able to assist with basic animal care needs which would normally be taken care of by grooming professionals. This in turn causes:
• distress to the animal
• endangers long-term health and can even lead to euthanasia
• expensive care bills
• longer recovery times
• a severe backlog in service availability for both sectors
• longer wait times once restrictions are lifted

Just as the province is encouraging Ontarians to take care of their own health by using services available to them, it is the responsibility of those same people to care for their pets by using services normally available to them to prevent distress, as mandated in the Provincial Animal Wellness Services Act.

From the Provincial Animal Wellness Services Act of Ontario:
“critical distress” means distress that requires immediate intervention in order to prevent serious injury or to preserve life; (“détresse critique”)
“distress” means the state of being,
(a) in need of proper care, water, food or shelter,
(b) injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or
(c) abused or subject to undue physical or psychological hardship, privation or neglect; (“détresse”)

We would also direct you to the language found in the Ontario Animal Health Act mentioned on numerous occasions. Two examples provided below illustrate the emphasis the government puts on the health of animals.

From the Ontario Animal Health Act
Section: Powers of Chief Veterinarian for Ontario
(7) When the Minister makes an order under this section, the Chief Veterinarian for Ontario may do any or all of the following:
2. Require animal owners or custodians in the animal health control area to provide or arrange for the provision of veterinary medical or other health related treatment for animals in their possession or care, including preventive measures such as vaccination.

Section: Powers of an Inspector
(m) require the animal owner or custodian to provide or arrange for the provision of veterinary medical or other health related treatment for animals in their possession or care, including preventive measures such as vaccination;

To ease the distress of the province’s pets and take the pressure off our veterinary community we call upon you to allow grooming businesses to resume offering emergency care services to their clients.

Emergency defined as:
• Safe removal of severe hair/fur matting;
• Trimming of overgrown nails that lead to gait problems or injuries. Nail trimming refers not only to dogs and cats but to reptiles, birds and small mammals;
• Helping animals with skin conditions and irritations that lead to impending infection issues;
• Any issue listed above or other that, if not treated, would lead to veterinary intervention.

Please note that groomers have been working with strict safety measures since their reopening in the spring, employing the same pick up and drop off measures as veterinary practices and have less contact with human clients than the majority of other businesses deemed as essential.

Given how many people are facing health and economic uncertainty, the last thing a family needs is to have the lockdown jeopardize the health of their pets who so are so often a source of comfort in difficult times. Keeping Ontario’s pets well is one more way the province can support our community’s mental health. In addition, many families welcomed new puppies and kittens into their homes this holiday season and are now cut off from the very experts who assist in keeping them healthy.

We thank you for taking the measures necessary to protect our pets to date. If you have any questions or require additional information, as the voice of the Canadian pet industry, PIJAC Canada will remain available to help you keep Canadian pets and their family’s well-being at heart.

Christine Carrière
President and CEO
PIJAC Canada

Hon. Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General of Ontario
Hon. Christine Elliot, Minister of Health
Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction
MPP’s of the Ontario Legislature