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14 tips that will help protect your pup from abuse at the groomer

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

We'd love to think our pets are safe at the groomers, but that's not always the case

Sending your dog to the groomer for a trim is a routine part of pet care – not a cause for worry – which is what makes the recent news of a PetSmart groomer being charged in the death of a 1-year-old dog all the more unsettling.

A groomer at a California PetSmart was arrested Sunday on suspicion of felony animal cruelty after Henry, a Dachshund, died just three minutes into his grooming appointment. Henry had suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung, and an on-site veterinarian was unable to save him. PetSmart is working with police and conducting their own investigation into the incident.

Does this heartbreaking scenario sound familiar? It should – a similar incident occurred at a Petco last May. So how can pet parents keep our precious family members safe? Here are a few tips you should try before you book your dog's next grooming appointment.

1. Big chain groomers aren't necessarily safer

Many dog owners believe that by taking their pets to a big chain their dogs will be safer. While these chains may very well have rules their groomers should follow, that doesn't mean the individual stores and groomers are following them. Check out those groomers just like you would an independent owner.

2. Check groomers out online and on the BBB

If someone's dog is injured by a groomer, whether accidentally or due to abuse, that person will most likely turn to social media or other websites like Yelp to make note. He or she may also file official complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Obviously, grooming accidents happen (dogs are unpredictable), but you're on the lookout for neglectful or abusive behavior.

3. Ask if they're insured

Yep! You can buy insurance if you're a pet groomer. Ask what specific insurance they have and whether it covers any potential injuries to you dog.

4. Ask for credentials

While there's no licensing for pet groomers, they can still get certifications. Make sure you check out the source of the certification to see how they qualify. You should also ask if they've taken animal first aid and CPR courses. They may also be members of a pet groomer's association where they have access to educational workshops, so ask about that (and what courses they've taken), too. Remember, groomers are professionals in their field. This isn't an "I just needed a job" kind of thing, and if someone strikes you that way, skip him or her.

More: 13 dog breeds to match your active lifestyle

5. Ask to watch the first grooming (or three)

If you've never used a groomer before, stick around to see how he or she handles your dog. Tell the groomer to act like you're not there. Is he or she using gentle but firm restraining techniques? Is the groomer allowing other animals to roam freely? Does the groomer at any time leave the room without putting your pooch in a cage? The groomer should also be using natural calming techniques to ensure your dog stays under control. He or she may use massage and music and should talk to your dog in a calming tone (yelling makes it worse).

6. Check out the grooming table

Does it have a grooming arm (the device that helps the groomer restrain the dog so he or she can work hands-free)? Does that grooming arm have a quick release? It's important in case your dog jumps or falls off. If that happens when the groomer leaves the room (without putting the dog away properly) or if the dog is too large to handle, it could hang itself to death without it.

7. Check the products they use

Look for groomers who use high-quality, all-natural products. Research the brands they use to ensure they don't have nasty chemicals that can cause skin reactions (or cancer). This includes creative pet grooming products like dyes and polishes.

Next Up: Check the dryers and ask a lot of questions

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