They call it creative grooming. They are pet groomers who dye and even sculpt designs on their dogs.
As of July 1st of this year, it's perfectly legal to do it here in Florida.
Lawmakers rescinded a 45-year-old ban on dyeing animals, and groomer Kristen Fulton of Estero couldn't wait for the day she could colorize her customers.
"We can do some things to add some flair and make their dog a gorgeous showpiece," Fulton said.
Since the ban was lifted, Fulton has been coloring some of her clients. And while you may think this is a treatment meant strictly for little white dogs, Fulton says she does dogs of all sizes.
"I have little two pound poodles and 110-pound mastiffs," she said.
Fulton insists that all the products she uses are safe – she doesn't use bleach or peroxide.
"There's a total difference between a dye and an oxidative dye ... meaning our ingredients are nontoxic. They're actually skin safe," she said.
She did a demonstration for us with a local groomer's dog. Gretchen McManus owns Rover Done Over Mobile Pet Grooming. She'd like to learn more about color, so she was interested in seeing it done.
"For me, just a little bling is good, but I don't want to carve shapes and objects into the dogs," said McManus.
We watched as Fulton used a semi-permanent dye called Manic Panic to give McManus' Pomeranian, Gigi, a pink tail and pink ear tips.
She works the dye into Gigi's tail, then foils it up; same goes for the ears.
Gigi will spend the next 15 minutes wearing foil on her ears, not unlike what millions of women do on a regular basis at the hair salon. Then it's time for a rinse and a blow dry and Gigi is "in the pink."
Fulton also showed us how she colors a dog entirely, using her own little Bolognese, Gracie. Gracie was already sporting pink ears for Breast Cancer Awareness month, but then she went all the way.
"What we're using is food coloring, water and apple cider vinegar, just like an Easter egg," Fulton said.
But is it safe?
We asked a local veterinarian who specializes in dermatology what she thought of Fulton's dye job on Gracie. Dr. Suzanne Cayatte of Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists said she didn't see a problem with it.
"All of those are nontoxic substances that are designed to be eaten," she said.
But Dr. Cayatte also warns there are dyes that can harm your pet.
"The peroxide is the ingredient that's the problem," she said. "Peroxide can cause skin irritation as well as vomiting and diarrhea in dogs."
Fulton said the key to coloring pets safely is choosing the right groomer, in an industry that's unregulated. She has taken special classes and passed tests to become a national certified master creative groomer.
"Make sure you do your research on who you're hiring to do anything," she said.
She doesn't deny the act of coloring a dog is exploitative, really for us, not them. But she also maintains that our pets revel in the attention they get.
"Dogs love to look cute," she said. "They do. If you've ever had your dog get groomed, as soon as they come in, they're running around like, 'I look so cute! I look so cute!"
A spokesman for an animal welfare organization that led the fight to keep the ban doesn't think dyeing animals of any kind is cute.
Bryan Wilson of The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida says dyeing animals relegates them to "toy" status, and his organization is worried about the potential sale of colored baby chicks, ducks and rabbits around Easter time.
Until 1967, when the coloring ban was enacted, that was commonplace and Wilson said thousands of baby animals were bought on a whim, only to be discarded when they grew up or children grew weary of them.
Wilson said when the ban was repealed, so was the minimum age of four weeks for those animals to be dyed and sold.
"That's the part of the provision of the law we're really the most alarmed about," Wilson said. "By removing both provisions it really introduced an opportunity for younger animals to be sold to children who'll dispose of them or possibly injure them."
ARFF says it's looking for a legislative sponsor to reinstate at least the portion of the ban that requires any dyed animals to be at least four weeks of age.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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