Victorian mobile pet grooming businesses are demanding answers from Premier Daniel Andrews after being left out of a revision to the state’s reopening roadmap over the weekend.
While salon-based pet grooming businesses have been given the green light to open for contactless services this week, sole traders in the mobile grooming industry have been told to remain closed until at least October 26, as they are deemed unsafe until the third step of the roadmap.
The decision leaves business owners facing at least another six weeks of financial uncertainty, waiting alongside the broader retail industry for coronavirus cases to drop below an average of five over two weeks.
Paul Walters, owner of mobile pet grooming franchise Aussie Pooch Mobile, says the industry has been “gutted” by the decision and is seeking answers from authorities about why they’ve been singled out.
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“Without knowing what will happen in relation to JobKeeper, I expect to have 20 small business owners looking at bankruptcy in the next six to eight weeks,” Walters tells SmartCompany.
“It just doesn’t make any sense, under stage three restrictions nationally we were deemed to be an essential contactless service.”
Business owners in the industry have also been left out of a new $100 million support package for sole traders, which excludes those without tenancies or licenses to a commercial premises.
This means mobile pet groomers are currently getting by solely on the federal government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, which are slated to be wound back at the end of September.
Martin Rose, owner of mobile grooming franchise Blue Wheelers, says his 32 Melbourne-based franchisees face having their incomes slashed when the payments are cut by hundreds of dollars a fortnight in a few weeks.
“The financial situation is dire, there’s no way they can cope without additional work,” Rose tells SmartCompany.
“There’s no logic behind the can’t work requirement and then they’re giving us no support for the illogical decision they’ve made.”
The Andrews government has sought to limit movement across Melbourne to combat the pandemic, but Rose says sole traders are capable of delivering a a low-risk contactless service that’s in line with health advice in other states and territories.
“We encourage the government to carefully consider their social responsibility to people who can’t get to shops and the need to care for animals that can’t advocate for themselves,” he says.
While grooming salons typically operate with several staff members in retail shops, mobile groomers argue their single-person operations are more safe, as there are fewer potential customer interactions and fewer animals being groomed in total.
The industry has pitched a model whereby groomers would communicate with pet owners by text, picking up and dropping off animals at homes without any person-to-person interaction with clients.
Under Melbourne’s rules for pet grooming businesses, pet owners can drop off their animals to grooming venues, and then pick them up when the service is completed in a manner similar to “click and collect”.