Official Letter from the Review Board

January 29, 2019

In February of 2018, PetSmart launched a comprehensive action plan to review and improve its grooming standards. As a key part of that effort, PetSmart formed an independent Review Board to conduct a comprehensive, unbiased review of the company’s existing grooming training, practices and grooming standards, the results of which would help inform changes to PetSmart’s groomer curriculum and create a safer grooming environment for pets and groomers.

Review Process

The Review Board was comprised of eight independent industry experts, master groomers, accredited veterinarians and pet behaviorists who undertook this review over a six-month period. The review included:

  • Analysis of all printed, online and video-based materials used by PetSmart to train new hires, totaling nearly 1,300 pages
  • Multiple in-person visits to PetSmart salons around the country to observe live grooming sessions.
  • Attendance at the company’s Training Academy and Annual Pet Safety Re-certification, to observe classroom-style training.

On average, the review took each member of the Board more than 60 hours over the six-month period.

The content the Board reviewed was organized into six modules, aligned with PetSmart’s groomer training program:

  1. Policies & Procedures
  2. Safety Certification
  3. Pet Safety Videos
  4. SPLASH Bather Training
  5. Grooming Academy for dogs & cats
  6. Store and Academy Visits

After completing a review of each module, each member submitted a detailed quantitative and qualitative assessment of the curriculum and training materials, including determinations as to validity, level of detail and comparison to best practices and industry standards. All assessments were submitted individually by each Board member to an external consultant who was retained to administer the review and organize the findings, outlined below.

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

Overall, the Board found PetSmart’s grooming curriculum to be thorough, noting that the combination of online, classroom and hands-on training to be effective. The program emphasized the company’s commitment to pet welfare and safety as well as its focus on hiring groomers who share that commitment. It was clear PetSmart groomers are taught about safety repeatedly to ensure that they are prepared to safely and properly groom pets in their care. Most notably after reviewing the curriculum, the members of the Review Board were more likely to associate “trust” and “safety” with PetSmart’s grooming services and say they would recommend PetSmart’s Grooming Services to others.

The Board also identified opportunities for improvement and recommends the following actions to address them:

Enhance Behavioral Training

The field of animal behavior takes a scientific and objective approach to animals, studying the way they respond to stimuli. Behavioral training can help groomers recognize signs of stress and use accurate terminology to communicate with others in the salon. The curriculum should incorporate this behavioral perspective to help groomers better understand pet body language and be proactive in identifying early indicators of distress, helping to reduce the chances of stress and anxiety-related incidents. Behavioral training should take the form of both classroom learning and additional time spent “hands-on” with pets. It is also recommended to include additional training on the conditions and behaviors that are more common in certain breeds. Understanding those differences will help groomers deliver the best and most safe service to each pet.

Minimize Distractions at the Salon Many of the salons allow visitors to see in and both pets and groomers to see out. This may pose an unnecessary distraction for some pets. For many pets, being able to see people and/or other animals walking by can increase stress and make it more difficult for the groomer to work with them. PetSmart should consider options both cosmetic and procedurally to mitigate and minimize distractions in the salon, while maintaining the high level of transparency customers have come to expect from the open environment.

Improve Ongoing Groomer Development PetSmart has a robust program to train new pet stylists, putting them through a rigorous curriculum combining hands-on and classroom training. Additionally, the company should make efforts to develop additional materials that keep lessons fresh for veteran groomers. This would help the company ensure that the principles taught to students in training are reinforced through continuing education and professional development for groomers. Providing additional opportunities for learning once the students become groomers, either within the company or with outside organizations, would help PetSmart ensure its groomers remain leaders in the field and help the company to better attract and retain passionate caregivers as groomers.

The eight members of the Review Board have dedicated our careers to the health and happiness of pets and thank PetSmart for taking this step to continue putting pets first. We encourage PetSmart to adopt the above recommendations and, following productive conversation with the company regarding our recommendations, have faith they will do so. We remain available to advise on implementation.

The Review Board,

  • Dr. William Bracken, DVM
  • Dr. Jon-Paul Carew, DVM
  • Crista Coppola, PhD Behaviorist, CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist)
  • Nicole Kallish, Certified Master Groomer
  • Jamie Migdal, Founder & CEO, FetchFind
  • Jodi Murphy, Certified Master Groomer
  • Todd Shelly, President Barkleigh Productions
  • Dr. Valarie Tynes, DVM, DACVB, Veterinary Behaviorist