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The Case of the Dog Bite

When a dog bites a groomer at her store, Amy must decide whether to share the video with animal control and the owner, or take a wait-and-see approach.

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IT WAS A beautiful fifth Saturday. Melanie had arrived at her store early to make sure the shelves were fully stocked and to get ready for a busy day. Her employees had also come in early and were thrilled with the boxes of pastries sitting on the breakroom table. She always made sure there were grab-and-go goodies for her staff — they get so busy at times that they forget to eat.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

Melanie greeted customers and made sure her employees were promoting the “Fifth Saturday” sales and taking dogs to the back for their grooming appointments. There was a line of customers at each register waiting to check out.

As she was talking to a new customer about food for their puppy, one of her groomers, Amy, came running through the retail area crying, with a towel held up to her face. Melanie asked one of her sales associates to finish helping the customer and excused herself to follow Amy.

She caught up to her groomer in the bathroom, where she found Amy splashing water on her face. When Amy looked up at Melanie, she burst into tears. Melanie looked at her face and saw blood seeping from her mouth and nose. “What happened?” Melanie asked while reaching into the bathroom cabinet for the first aid kit.

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Through her tears, Amy said the dog she was bathing turned and bit her in the face. Melanie moved closer and saw that the wound on her lip was bleeding nonstop. She grabbed her keys and took Amy straight to the ER.

After checking her in and waiting until Amy was taken to a bay, Melanie pulled out her phone to watch the replay of what happened on her store cameras. She saw that Amy was not paying attention to the dog in the tub and didn’t see the signs of stress he was exhibiting. Amy was rinsing the dog with one hand and looking at her phone with the other. Melanie watched the dog stiffen and curl his lip up again and again while Amy was on her phone.

When Amy put the phone down to turn off the water, the dog turned and bit her when her face got close to his. This could have been avoided 100%, Melanie thought as she put away her phone.

She looked over and saw an animal control officer at the ER check-in desk. This is a huge mess, Melanie thought as she slowly walked toward the officer. She was worried about what would happen to the dog, and she was worried about

Amy having permanent damage to her face.

The Big Questions

  • Should Melanie tell the officer and the dog’s owner that she has the incident on video and that Amy was at fault?
  • Should she not mention the video and see what happens?
  • How can Melanie help prevent this from happening again?
Sheila R.
ARLINGTON, VA

Absolutely share the video with animal control and give your professional opinion. Make sure the officer knows that the dog gave many warnings that were missed because the employee was on her phone. Tell them that you are not assigning blame, but that this was not an “attack.” Use the video as a training tool for all staff to show what could have been done to avoid the incident. (After you black out the employee’s face and stop before the bite).

Vincent S.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ

The owner should ensure her groomer is fully taken care of, then determine vaccination status of the dog. Assuming the dog is fully vaccinated, she should tell the dog owner about the bite so she is aware that the dog can bite when anxious. I would not involve animal control, nor mention the video at this time. The groomer needs to be counseled that it is never OK to lose concentration on a dog in grooming, as that is when accidents happen.

Jacqueline L.
WILLIAMSTOWN, NJ

Melanie should contact her commercial insurance company first. There may be workers’ compensation for her employee’s injuries. When animal control inquires about the bite circumstances, they will ask for any video available. When the lawyers get involved, they will request video and the employee’s phone records, which will show she was distracted. Change and clearly post employer policies regarding the usage of personal communications devices at work, especially when handling any animals.

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Beth K.
IRWIN, PA

I believe in being truthful so, yes, I would tell the officer as well as the owner that Amy was at fault. That being said, I always ask at check-in with a new client if the dog has ever bitten anyone, including the owner. Then everyone knows to be extra careful. Even so, Amy should not have been on her phone. I don’t know that I’d mention the video right away. I may take a wait–and-see approach based on the fact that I was truthful about what happened. I would have a no cell phone rule during work. They can check their phone on breaks or after hours. Any emergency calls for employees can come to the salon.

Marcia C.
SPRINGFIELD, VA

The existence of a video of the incident doesn’t change the situation. Animal control still had to be called. The animal, depending on the jurisdiction where the bite occurs, will need to be quarantined. And the grooming salon’s workers’ comp still has to pay for medical needs and lost time — even though the groomer wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see the dog’s warning signals. The groomer definitely needs to be reprimanded and a policy of “no cell phones” in the grooming area needs to be put into place to ensure staff are paying attention to doing their jobs and not their phones.”

Christine F.
SAINT CLOUD, FL

She should definitely be truthful with the officer and share the video. The outcome is going to be the same no matter what the story. She can teach her staff how to read dog body language and have a no-phone policy when dealing with animals. She should also offer solutions if negative behavior is being observed. This should be taught before anyone is even allowed to handle an animal.

Penny M.
NEW LONDON, NH

They should let animal control know what happened, but be sure to let them know the dog gave plenty of warnings. You can solve this by making sure your groomers NEVER have their phone in their hand during any portion of the groom. Eyes and hands on the dog. I would also put a note in the employee’s file listing exactly what happened with how many times the dog warned and note that she was on her phone.

Doug S.
NEW CITY, NEW YORK

Though any dog can bite at any time, a professionally run grooming salon operates in a way to avoid it at all costs. With that said, here’s my read as a groomer for three decades: First, did that groomer bother to temperament test the dog before it even was groomed? Second, there is absolutely no cell phone use of any kind during grooming. Any distraction can be lethal to the animal as well as the groomer. You are taught this from day one if you attended the right grooming academy. Third, this is the groomer’s fault, 100%, period. They need to own it and correct their ways or be gone. If you showed that video to me and it was my dog, I would see the ineptness of the groomer and not return as well as tell my friends about the lack of attention of the groomer in relation to what should be the proper handling and care of my dog. They are lucky nothing worse happened.

Brett F.
OWEGO, NY

She should tell the truth, but not throw Amy under the bus that it’s 100 percent her fault. Yes, if she’d been doing her job correctly, it could have (most likely) been avoided. At least in the sense that she would have been aware not to get her face near the dog. However, this dog has trust issues and maybe isn’t the best client for grooming. Melanie should mention the video. The officer and owner should be notified of the dog’s behavior. Melanie also needs to put a cell phone policy in place and enforce it. Pull Amy aside, show her the video, and have the conversation. Tell her she’s a valuable employee but not irreplaceable. Remind her that ignoring the signs created as much trauma for the dog as it did for her.

Heidi N.
ROCKLAND, ME

This one is totally on Amy, and Melanie should share that information. I would be curious if they have a no-phone policy, because she clearly violated that, but also, as a groomer, her job is to care for and be aware of the dog, not scrolling through her phone. I would never be OK with myself if something happened to that dog — it was definitely not the dog’s fault in this situation.

Cindy Michelle M.
OSPREY, FL

OMG Amy is so FIRED. There is no way being on one’s phone while actively having a dog in the tub should be allowed. It seems the dog was trying to warn and shouldn’t be punished or worse yet be euthanized for biting someone who was not paying attention. The staff needs to be counseled and retrained if necessary. Rules need to be in place regarding phone use if they aren’t already.

Dawn T.
VERO BEACH, FL

Yes, Melanie should surely tell the dog’s owner about the incident and that she has the incident on video, see if the owner would like to view the incident but also tell the owner the incident was Amy’s fault. As for the animal control officer, in some states she has no choice but to report it, considering she already knows who is at fault and that the dog was in distress it is clear that the dog was not the aggressor. It does show negligence on her employee’s part though. However, she should contact the owner first. Yes, she should most certainly mention the video. There is no reason to hide it. Melanie helps prevent this from happening again by making sure employees do not have their phones on them while at work for their safety, the dog’s safety and the store’s reputation.

Ramie G.
EVANSTON IL

This is why you should have insurance. There are several issues: Where we are, in Illinois, the customer is always responsible for their dog biting anyone, anywhere. You will need to discuss this with your attorney, and you will also have to address the groomer’s responsibility when it comes to workers’ comp. There should be something in writing that spells out groomer behavior: no watching tv or on phone, no texting, etc. when they are with a client’s dog; when the dog is in the tub or on the table, the dog cannot be left alone, etc. The shop has cameras, and they should be spot checking them because this was probably not a new behavior and should have been addressed before something bad happened. This happens when things become lax and the store owner or manager should be checking in all the time. Thankfully another client’s dog was not injured. They need to talk to the animal control officer so they understand the events.

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Trace M.
HOUSTON, TX

Melanie should not only throw Amy under the bus, but she should also jump in the driver’s seat and run her over a few times! I think she should reveal EVERYTHING … for the dog’s sake, for Melanie’s own growth, the business owner, and so that the dog’s owner will know the truth!

Carol W.
ST. LOUIS, MO

We take employees to Urgent Care and have left the decision on reporting the dog bite to the tending doctors. To date, we’ve never had a doctor refer a bite to animal control. Fortunately we’ve never had a severe bite. But this is a good reminder to ensure our newbies keep their cell phone in the drawer while grooming.

Jennifer Moore B.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH

I think honesty is the best policy here. If the groomer wasn’t paying attention to the signals the dog was sending and got bitten, the dog should not be blamed for an unprovoked bite. Not sharing the video would really look bad if it came out later that there was video. Emphasis on bite prevention, paying attention to body language and signals and most important PUTTING YOUR PHONE AWAY AND DOING YOUR JOB should be part of employee training.

Tasha H.
DICKINSON, ND

I would share that upon investigation, it was found out that the staff was distracted and not picking up on stress signals from the dog, that the owner will be having a safety course for employees and that there will be disciplinary actions for the employee. I would not show the video unless necessary. I would pay Amy’s medical bill and fire her.

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Nancy Guinn is the founder and president of Dog Krazy Inc., an award-winning natural pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. She helps other small businesses succeed through her contributions to industry magazines, webinars and podcasts. The Guinn household includes Nancy’s husband and business partner, Chris, and their furry and feathered inspirations Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

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