Like many people, Ashley Spielmann loves Christmas.
And like many families, her kids love the classic Dr. Seuss tale of Mr. Grinch.
So when the 37-year-old Freeport, Illinois resident got inspired to color her miniature schnauzer Rizzo to look like the Grinch, she knew just where to go: Her groomer had done dye jobs on other animals and Rizzo doesn’t get stressed when he’s in the shop.
“My kids watched the Grinch every night last year and since schnauzers naturally have grumpy and sad looking faces we thought he would fit the Grinch perfectly,” Spielmann told USA TODAY.
With the color set and Rizzo looking like a little dour Grinch, Spielmann decided to share groomer Hailey Degner’s work on TikTok.
Then the backlash began.
“To be honest, I ignore all the bad comments. He is happy and healthy and fits the role perfectly,” Spielmann said. “The coloring our groomer used is vegan and cruelty free and totally safe for animals.”
TikTok videos featuring dyed dogs including Rizzo have renewed fierce debates on its safety and ethics this year.
Degner said Spielmann’s viral video was the first time her coloring has been recognized on a larger scale but despite the backlash, she said her Muddy Paws salon has handled even more requests for a “Grinch” style cut and dye.
Don’t dye dogs that get stressed at groomer
The groomer of around three years said that, on top of using products marketed as pet-safe, she wouldn’t provide the service to an animal who has shown signs of distress or has a history of difficulty with other grooming methods like nail trimming and bathing. Rizzo, now a little over a year old, has gone to Degner for services every month since he was a small puppy.
“We know well before if they’re going to even be able to get the hair coloring, just based off of previous grooming experiences,” she said. “(Rizzo’s) very used to the grooming process and literally didn’t care before, didn’t care during and didn’t care after he left. It was just another grooming day for him.”
A dog owner herself, Degner emphasized that a colorful dye isn’t worth an animal’s emotional distress, and can also jeopardize a groomer’s safety. Degner’s own dog always has a pink tail and is the type to fall asleep on the grooming table, she added.
“I’m not going to color a dog just because the owner wants it if it requires a dog getting stressed out and me being put in danger as well because they bite me,” Degner explained. “That’s never something I would want to do. Not even just for the dog but for myself.”
Is coloring a dog’s fur safe?
All three veterinarians interviewed in a recent story reported by Allure said you should only use products identified as safe for pets. When consumed, human hair dyes can cause major irritation or burns and are highly toxic to any creature.
Degner says she uses Crazy Liberty to dye dog’s fur, a popular brand in the creative grooming community. A legal disclaimer below the product suggests that owners do an allergy skin test behind the pet’s ear before dyeing its fur.
Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argues that animals should only receive routine grooming that’s necessary and shouldn’t be forced to undergo additional procedures.
“Unnatural beauty procedures that don’t benefit an animal’s health and well-being should never be performed — there’s simply too much risk and absolutely no need,” the organization stated.
Is it legal?
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.