Is California Still Going to the Dogs on Pet Groomer Licensing?

In a previous blog post I wrote about an effort to require every pet groomer in the State of California to obtain a state license, along with all the requisite fees, requirements, and arbitrary regulations that go along with that. The bill, SB 969, generated such a backlash from business groups and the grooming industry (although there were doubtless some that supported imposing tougher, higher-cost standards on their current and would-be competitors) that it was watered down so that instead of imposing mandatory licensing it now calls for the establishment of a voluntary state certification program (which means there would still be more needless bureaucracy).

While this is an improvement over the original legislation, since the state would no longer force groomers to jump through all its hoops while driving up costs to businesses (and, ultimately, consumers), it should still give groomers and consumers alike pause (or is that “paws”—sorry, couldn’t resist). As I mentioned to a reporter for an article on the legislation in the L.A. Times, the voluntary certification would likely be merely a short-term stepping stone to imposing mandatory licensing in the future, as evidenced by the previous attempt to do just that and the fact that the tendency over the last several decades has been for the number and stringency of government licensing laws and regulations to grow.

Moreover, a state certification programs would be duplicative and unnecessary. There is no shortage of private pet groomer associations and certification organizations, including:

  • International Professional Groomers, Inc.
  • International Society of Canine Cosmetologists
  • National Dog Groomers Association of America
  • Professional Cat Groomers Association of America
  • Northern California Professional Groomers Association
  • Southern California Professional Groomers Association

In addition to offering testing and certification services, organizations like these offer groomers training, continuing education, and mentoring programs. Voluntary (private) certification allows groomers to meet certain standards and advertise their competency to consumers, while still leaving groomers and consumers free to choose whether certain certification is necessary to do the job. This allows for the greatest competition, the lowest prices, the most consumer choice, and the greatest economic opportunity and freedom to work in the occupation of one’s choosing. Businesses that offer shoddy work will suffer from their bad reputations and cease to be in business, and if harm is done to pets owners may seek legal recourse. (Aggrieved pet owners may even be able to avoid the legal system and receive just compensation for themselves and punishment for the negligent groomer by enlisting the aid of certification organizations or groups such as the Better Business Bureau.)

The L.A. Times column also cited my 2007 occupational licensing study, which, in addition to outlining the economic and moral arguments against mandatory (government) licensing, contained a fairly comprehensive listing of which occupations require licenses from each of the 50 states. By this metric, California was the most regulated state in the nation, requiring licenses for 177 occupations—nearly double the national average of 92. This should not be surprising for a state that consistently places at or near the bottom in surveys of state business climates.

In light of its poor business climate, California should be looking to expand economic opportunities and freedom, not restrict them. Especially in an economic climate like today’s where there is such a concern for jobs, jobs, jobs, state and local governments should simply get out of the way and remove licensing and other harmful business regulations.

One groomer quoted in the L.A. Times article probably said it best:

“I want the government out of my salon,” said Johnny Ray, co-owner of the Dog House in North Hollywood. “It’s just a money grab.”

Related Research and Commentary:

“State is barking up wrong tree on pet groomer licensing” (U-T San Diego op-ed)

“Bill would hound pet groomers” (Orange County Register editorial)

“California Bill Proposes Licensing for Pet Groomers” ( blog post)

Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives (Policy Study)

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

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

” “Occupational Licensing and the Beard Trimming Turf War in Texas” ( blog post)

” “State Licensing Mandates for Movers in Illinois Increase Prices, Reduce Job Opportunities” ( blog post)