California is Barking Up the Wrong Tree with Pet Groomer Licensing Bill

Earlier this month, I wrote about a proposed bill in California to require state licensing for pet groomers. The legislation, SB 969, would impose fees on would-be groomers, require applicants to pass written and practical examinations administered by the Veterinary Medical Board, mandate detailed and burdensome record-keeping requirements for groomers, dictate certain other business practices, and spawn an army of bureaucrats to go around inspecting every dog grooming business in the state at least once a year.

None of this will do anything to improve the quality of pet grooming services—the supposed rationale behind the bill—but it will increase the cost of grooming services, reduce competition and consumer choice, and, because of the high costs of fees and compliance with state regulations, deny gainful employment to many who would otherwise be competent groomers and entrepreneurs. This is California big government thinking in a nutshell: there must be a government solution to everything, and taxes and regulations can surely cure every real or imagined ill in the world. Of course, in reality, this only serves to deny Californians economic liberties and opportunities, which they oftentimes seek elsewhere (as evidenced by their migration to more business-friendly states like Texas, Nevada, and Utah). No wonder the state is saddled with such a poor business climate and mired in unsustainable spending and chronic and significant budget deficits.

In a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed column, I make the case against the pet groomer licensing bill and occupational licensing in general. Below is an excerpt of the article.

While we love our pets dearly and want to protect them from harm, mandatory state licensing is not the answer. As numerous economics studies of a wide variety of professions have demonstrated, licensing rarely leads to improved service quality, and oftentimes results in worse quality. While this might sound counterintuitive, there are several reasons for this.

The one-size-fits-all regulations imposed by the state may be arbitrary (not necessarily an accurate measure of groomer competence) and give consumers a false sense of security about the competency of licensed groomers, causing them to be less cautious about whom they do business with than they otherwise might be. In addition, licensing fees and regulations restrict competition by making it more difficult for people — even those who would be skilled groomers — from entering the business.

Less competition means less pressure to offer the best services and the lowest prices. The higher prices that would result from licensing would cause many people to resort to do-it-yourself grooming, which may result in more pain to pets since the owners are not trained to do this. For the same reason, there are more electrocutions where there are stricter licensing regulations for electricians and poorer dental health where dental licensing requirements are overly stringent.

[. . .]

Some may still cry, “There ought to be a law!” but groomers who harm pets can already be prosecuted under laws against negligence and fraud, as with any other case of poor service or breach of contract. This does not mean that there are, or should be, no standards for groomer competence. Voluntary (private) certification allows practitioners who meet the criteria of a certification organization to advertise their certification to signify to customers that they offer high-quality services, while leaving consumers and noncertified practitioners free to do business if they so choose. Pet grooming organizations such as the National Dog Groomers Association of America, National Cat Groomers Institute of America, International Professional Groomers and International Society of Canine Cosmetologists have their own testing and other certification requirements and offer workshops, seminars and other events to provide groomers and consumers more information about their members’ qualifications. The use of referrals from veterinarians or friends and resources such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau may also help to avoid many poor groomers in the first place.

See the full article here.

Related Research and Commentary:

“California Bill Proposes Licensing for Pet Groomers”

Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives

” “California Licenses Most Jobs in Nation” (Los Angeles Business Journal)

” “Lawyer Licensing Laws Lead to Higher Prices, Less Consumer Choice and Access to Legal Services

” “Occupational Licensing and the Beard Trimming Turf War in Texas

” “State Licensing Mandates for Movers in Illinois Increase Prices, Reduce Job Opportunities