On Monday, July 16, the state Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists will decide whether to ban dogs and fish from salons, schools and barbershops (see “Etc: First they came for the barbershop dogs…” May 31). This was a controversial measure when it was last taken up, in 2001, drawing Gov. Judy Martz into the fray on the side of the dogs, who prevailed. Seventeen years later, citing safety and sanitation concerns, the board is moving to amend the current rules to prohibit all animals, including previously exempt dogs and fish, except for service animals.

Curious about what sorts of problems animals have been causing in hair salons, the Indy asked to see records of disciplinary actions involving animals in salons. The sole final order with an animal-related issue from 2015 through 2017 involved “1 (Turtle)” in 2016. The offending reptile appeared as one of eight counts of rule violations for Pro Nails in Havre during a February 2016 inspection. “Licensee had one or more turtles on the premises without board approval in violation of ARM 24.121.407(6)(d),” the order read. The salon was fined, and has not received another citation since.

Lam Nguyen, the owner of Pro Nails, told the Indy he didn’t know at the time that there was a prohibition on animals other than dogs or fish in tanks. “One of my clients gave it to me and I tried to bring it home and suddenly [the inspector] came in” that same day, Nguyen says. He says customers never bring dogs into Pro Nails because the shop is inside a shopping mall that doesn’t allow dogs on the premises.

In light of the scarcity of animal-related violations, the reasons for moving to reinstate the ban appear to stem from a fear of potential harms due to a perceived increase in support animals in public, according to notes and audio from board meetings. During the board’s July 17, 2017 meeting, rules committee member Darlene Battaiola described her concerns about allowing animals into spaces where professionals come into close contact with clients.

“You know, one thought I had, if I was a med tech in a hospital, OK, would they allow me to carry around my dog in my purse? And take and visit various and sundry patients?” Battaiola said.

“They allow companion animals in the hospitals,” board secretary/treasurer Sherry Dembowski-Wieckowski noted.

“But if I was the technician, nurse, the doctor or whatever, would they allow me to take my two-year-old poodle into surgery? Because he’s my assist animal? ... There’s got to be some sort of a thing between assist animals, safety, and sanitation requirements in a business that is in fact, touching people. And there is a direct transmission of germs and infection,” Battaiola said.

An unidentified board member then asked, “How are fish touching people?” which elicited an explanation of the decision to allow only service animals.

Which will affect Pro Nails. “I have a koi fish tank in the shop, but I have no problems,” Nguyen says. If the board decides on Monday to ban them, he’ll have to take his koi home.

Staff Reporter

Susan Elizabeth Shepard lived in Missoula from 2008 to 2011 before returning in 2017 to work at the Independent. She is also a two-time resident of Austin, TX, and Portland, OR, with an interest in labor, music and sports. @susanelizabeth on Twitter.

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