The next time you take your pooch to the groomer for a shampoo or cut, make sure you ask whether the places uses drying cages or boxes. Though widely used, these devices are controversial because they have been linked to a small number of deaths in dogs.
Most recently perhaps is the case of Bailey, a 2-year-old pug-beagle mix who died of heat stroke shortly after being placed in one of these cages. Bailey's owner, Thomas Bruckner of Point Lookout, New York says he received a frantic call from his girlfriend informing him the grooming salon had called to tell her Bailey had collapsed and was having difficulty breathing. Bailey died the next morning. Their veterinarian told the couple the cause of death was heat stroke and it was just 60-degrees outside.
Bruckner sued the groomer and was awarded $1,000 out of court, but he wants more. He wants drying cages and boxes banned. He has also set up a website for other pet owners to report their experiences with those he calls bad groomers.(badgroomer.com)
So, what are these contraptions that might induce heat stroke in some dogs? These devices are crates or cages equipped with a tube or hair dryer that blows air into the space. The dog is placed inside to start the drying process, allowing a groomer to work on other dogs. Sometimes the air blown in is hot and just like leaving a dog in a car with the windows rolled up in summer, this can cause the animal to overheat.
In truth, groomers are not the only people who care for dogs who use drying cages. Many veterinarians do too, after giving a dog water therapy and after some surgical procedures. In fat, the American Veterinary Medical Association has not taken a position on the use of drying cages, but does advise the animal should not be left unsupervised.
The National Dog Groomers Association of America is opposed to any ban on the use of the cages, saying virtually every groomer has one. The organization does acknowledge dogs are sometimes forgotten in the devices when shops become busy or the phone rings. Executive Director Jeffrey Reynolds attributes such mistakes to "lack of knowledge or common sense."
Lack of training and licensing may be contributing factors according to New York state senator Carl Kruger. He is sponsoring a bill requiring groomers in New York to obtain both as well as ban drying cages. Currently vocational licenses are not a prerequisite for groomers.
So, where does all of this leave consumers who trust their canine family members to the care of grooming salons? First ask whether they use drying cages and how closely the dogs are watched while in them. If you have a small short -nosed dog which is more susceptible to heat-related issues, request that your pet not be placed in a drying cage. Find out how many groomers are actually working in the salon at any one time. If the staff looks like they have more dogs than they can handle, you might want to try another groomer, While many groomers use the convenience of drying cages quite safely, all it take is one mistake. You don't want that mistake to be your best friend.
(If you want to see more of my stories, go to nbcnewyork.com)