Political Animal

How many dogs must die before we enact grooming legislation?

Juan Zarate, who was arrested May 15, 2016 for Felony Animal Cruelty at a PetSmart in San Mateo after the death of Henry, a 1-year-old Dachshund, during at a routine grooming session.

I am sad to say this is my third column about a dog being killed or nearly killed in the hands of untrained, unlicensed, sometimes even criminal groomers. While there have been incidents at independent shops, the vast majority of these tragedies take place at two chain pet stores: Petco and PetSmart.


The latest case occurred on May 15 at a PetSmart in San Mateo. According to the city’s police department, officers responded at 5:15 p.m. to a report that a dog had died on the premises. The owner indicated that he brought his 1-year-old male Dachshund, Henry, to the store to be groomed. A few minutes later the groomer, identified as 38-year-old Juan Zarate of San Francisco, came out of the office holding Henry, saying the dog was suffering from a medical emergency. Henry was visibly bleeding from the mouth and struggling to breath. An onsite veterinarian tried to save Henry, but he died just minutes later. A postmortem X-ray determined Henry suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung. Subsequent investigation by the SMPD determined that “deliberate actions” by Zarate contributed to the dog’s death. Zarate was arrested and booked on felony animal cruelty charges.


Marina resident Hannah Hartman, whose Shih Tzu, Joey, dislocated his hip at a Novato-based Petco, tried to gain the attention of California Senator Mark Leno for over a year in hopes he would sponsor the revival of Senate Bill 969 (also called Lucy’s Law for a dog badly maimed by a groomer).


In 2012, lawmakers voted down Senate Bill 969, which would have required vocational licenses for California pet groomers. Leno, who is termed out this November, never took interest in Lucy’s Law (despite claiming throughout his tenure that he was an avid “animal advocate”). Perhaps it’s because Leno won’t have a job soon and is busy figuring out his next role as a “public servant,” or maybe it’s because he’s a lame duck with nothing to gain politically from taking on big-box pet stores — whatever his reasons, since Leno was made aware of the situation, several more Bay Area dogs have been maimed or killed, and it has been happening for years.


Had Lucy’s Law been enacted, perhaps Maxi, a miniature poodle who goes to the same swim therapist as my pit bull, Skylar, would still be able to walk. On May 6, 2012, his back was broken during a routine bathing at a PetSmart on Coleman Avenue in San Jose. Owner Jeanne Corinne says it took the company six months to pay for the surgery and a wheelchair that allows Maxi to drag his legs behind him. To this day she and her husband fund weekly physical therapy from their own pockets.


I hope whoever fills Leno’s District 11 seat in Sacramento is an animal lover. I believe that person will be Scott Wiener, one of the most prolific and effective legislators on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Wiener — who has tirelessly worked to secure more funding for San Francisco Animal Care and Control and to stop the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s draconian “dog control law” aimed at keeping dogs off our beaches — doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to animal issues, he walks the walk, just as he did leading a recent march across Crissy Field to protest the GGNRA’s proposal. If he wins (and I think he will), animal lovers should encourage Wiener to sponsor Lucy’s Law, which will at least bring some regulation to a completely unregulated industry.

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