Dundee Warden, owner of Dundee's Barber Shop, and Charlie pose for a photograph

Dundee Warden, owner of Dundee's Barber Shop in Reeder's Alley in Helena, and her dog Charlie pose for a photograph Monday. The state Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists is considering adopting a rule that would ban dogs like Charlie from barbershops and salons. Other animals would also be banned unless they are service animals.

A handful of people, plus a 10-month-old pup, traveled to Helena Monday to object to a rule that would ban all animals except service animals from barber shops and hair salons.

“I believe this decision to remove the pets from my shop will adversely affect my business, it would adversely affect me as a person, my ability to function during the day,” said Tom Winger, who owns Blades Haircuts for Men barbershop in Hamilton. As he testified, Winger held his 10-month old Boston terrier, Millie. She's one of three dogs — Willie and Lacy did not attend Monday's hearing — that frequent the shop.

The state Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, which is under the Department of Labor and Industry, proposes a ban on animals, except service animals, in barbershops and salons

The Ravalli Republic reported last week that in an official statement, the board said “it has long been recognized that having animals in salons, shops and schools poses sanitation and safety concerns. Upon reviewing the rules, the board concluded that no valid reason exists to distinguish dogs from other animals in these situations.

“The board has determined it is reasonably necessary to amend to prohibit any animals in salons, shops and schools, other than service animals as allowed by law,” the statement read.

Those who testified Monday said their dogs don’t create any sanitation issues. Winger's wife, Juli, cried when she told hearings officer Dennis Clark, executive officer of the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, about the signatures she’s collected over the last few weeks in support of allowing dogs in barber shops. 

“Dogs aren’t unsanitary or a safety concern unless they’ve been poorly raised,” Juli Winger said, adding that many people who come into the shop haven’t showered or were in contact with their own pets at home.

The full board did not attend the hearing and those who testified said they were frustrated about not knowing about the date of the hearing or proposed rule until late last week or over the weekend.

Janet Bierer, who owns Red’s Hair Studio in Hamilton, told Clark that dogs aren’t any more unsanitary than humans.

“We pick boogers and wipe them under our chairs, we scratch our unmentionables and don’t wipe our hands. The dog doesn’t hide those behaviors like humans do,” Bierer said.

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If she wasn’t allowed to have dogs at her business, Bierer said she would lose customers.

“I have more customers bring in their dogs on a regular basis than you would even begin to guess. I think literally it would cost me a month’s rent to lose those customers, which I would lose.”

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Dundee Warden, who has run a barber shop in Reeder’s Alley in Helena for 25 years, has been bringing her yellow Labrador Charlie into her business since he was a puppy.

Now 10 years old, Charlie is the main attraction for many who get their hair cut at Dundee’s.

“I’ve never had one complaint from the over 500 customers that I have,” Warden said. “Oftentimes I think my clients come to the shop more to see Charlie than to get their haircuts. “

Juli Winger and others also argued that dogs are part of the culture in Montana.

“This is the state of Montana, for Pete’s sake. We’re not supposed to be like California, Washington, Oregon or many other states that don’t allow dogs. Thousands of people come here from other states and relish the freedoms we still have,” Juli Winger said.

No one testified in support of the rule.

In 2001 the state ended a ban on dogs in barbershops after Ed Dutton was fined earlier that year for having Coco, his springer spaniel, at his shop in Kalispell.

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