Dog groomers under scrutinty, including 1 in Kern County

Dog groomers under scrutinty, including 1 in Kern County »Play Video
Rags is allegedly treated roughly by his groomer in a still image from video obtained by Eyewitness News.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A trip to the groomer is common for many pet owners, and most owners never expect their pets to being roughed up. One Eyewitness News viewer said it happened to her dog, and she called the Eyewitness News tip line to shed light on the incident.

Barbara Copeland’s dog was groomed March 23, and after the video surfaced, she was infuriated. Copeland was refunded for the grooming of all three of her dogs but wanted to share her story as a warning for other pet owners.

Copeland's shih tzu, Rags, is admittedly one spoiled pooch. But, Copeland said Rags was anything but spoiled after being cared for by a mobile groomer.

"I'm shocked. I am shocked that (the groomer) would even treat my dog like that," said Copeland.

Eyewitness News obtained exclusive video of Rags being treated roughly by his groomer. The video was captured by the groomer's assistant, Stacey Wilson, who said the incident disturbed her so much that she decided to start rolling video.

"She starts, like, ripping it up and down, and every time she throws the dog down, it's choking the dog," said Wilson.

According to Wilson, after confronting the groomer, she told her boss about her concerns of abuse. She said her boss did nothing, so she quit and started posting this video of Rags on her Facebook account.

That's where Barbara Copeland's grandson saw the video and recognized Rags. Wilson also sent the raw video of the incident directly to Eyewitness News.

Eyewitness News then called the groomer, Terri Isacone, and invited her to review the incident and explain what happened.

"I was protecting myself and the dog, pushing him back was to keep him from falling off the table and breaking his neck, and pushing him down was from him getting in my face," said Isacone.

She admitted to losing her temper and said she wishes she had done things differently. Isacone told Eyewitness News she was suspended because of her behavior in the video, and that Barbara Copeland has been refunded for the grooming.

"I'm sorry it happened, and if I could talk to Barbara, I would totally apologize," pleaded Isacone.

She went on to say that Rags has always been a difficult dog to groom, something even Rags' owner admits.

"I know that Rags is not the perfect little dog, I understand that, but there are other ways of taking care of little dogs," said Copeland.

Still, Isacone said she believes the situation wouldn't have gotten out of hand if her assistant was helping instead of taking video. So, we took that question to the woman behind the camera for her explanation.

"Even before I turned on the video, I asked, 'Do you want me to help you and try and hold the dog?'" explained Wilson.

So, what about the issue of abuse? For a more in-depth look at the video, Eyewitness News went to local veterinarian, Dr. Paul Ulrich, for his opinion on Isacone’ s treatment of Rags.

"She's being a little rough with the brushing, but she's not hitting him or choking him or what I would consider being real abusive," he said.

Ulrich made it clear that without seeing what happened before the recording started, it's hard to make an accurate judgment.

"I am not sure what happened prior to this. I mean, he's not being aggressive," Ulrich said. "Based upon what I see there, I don't think she injured this dog."

While Ulrich said Rags was not hurt, there have been cases across the nation where dogs were seriously injured and even killed by an inexperienced groomer. In fact, California state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, has proposed a bill that would require pet groomers to undergo 300 hours of certification.

"One of them had all the nipples shaved off, another one had all but two of them shaved off. Then they go into trauma and almost die," said Vargas, describing some horrific instances of dog grooming.

The standards haven't been established yet, but they will be established if SB 969 is approved by the Senate, House and governor.

"These animals are like our family members, and horrific things have happened. So, I think there has to be some training, and there has to be a change," explained Vargas.

Eyewitness News asked Ulrich his opinion on the proposed bill. He said that he had mixed feelings.

"It would be nice to make sure we have a continuity of care," Ulrich said, adding that he is skeptical the bill will pass and questions how it would be enforced.

SB 969 is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Back in Bakersfield Isacone is working again, grooming dogs, which are unnerving to former bather Wilson.

"I didn't see any point, any reason to treat and animal that way. You can always say, 'I'm sorry, I can't do your animal,' and take it back to the door," said Wilson.

But, Isacone said it's her second chance.

"I love these animals, I have animals," she said.