California Bill Proposes Licensing for Pet Groomers

It appears that California truly has gone to the dogs. The state is facing a $9.2 billion budget deficit, a $10 billion unemployment insurance fund deficit, and unfunded pension obligations in the range of $400 billion to $500 billion, yet the busybodies in the state legislature are seeking to add another occupation to the long list of those burdened by unnecessary state regulation: pet grooming. As I noted in a 2007 study, Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives, California already “leads” the nation by requiring licenses for some 177 occupations, almost double the national average. The new bill, SB 969, proposed by state Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), would establish licensing standards for dog groomers and dog grooming schools under the Veterinary Medical Board. Violations of the regulations could result in fines of $500 to $2000 and/or imprisonment of 30 days to a year in jail.

The bill would establish minimum age and education requirements for potential licensees (18 years old and at least a 10th grade education), impose licensing fees, and charge the licensing board with developing standardized written and practical demonstration tests for applicants. In addition, it would require an inspection of every licensed pet groomer in the state each year and mandate that licensees maintain detailed records for two years (“including a list of any chemicals used while performing the services and any medical conditions discovered during the performance of services”). Moreover, as a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the bill notes, the legislation has drawn criticism from groomers because it would also force them to individually cage animals that would be calmer if they were not confined.

The Orange County Register today ran an editorial that effectively illustrates the fallacies of licensing pet grooming. As I told the Register,

“Licensing pet groomers is not the answer to poor-quality grooming services. Imposing a top-down state bureaucracy will likely not improve pet safety or grooming quality, but it will result in less competition, less choice for consumers, and higher prices. Higher prices will arise from the reduced competition and the need for practitioners to offset the cost of compliance with unnecessary regulations. When there is less competition, there is less pressure on practitioners to offer the best prices and service quality.”

The artificially higher prices caused by licensing would have some other unintended consequences, such as encouraging people to save money by clipping their pets’ nails or cutting their hair themselves. Since the average person is not as trained as a pet groomer (licensed or not), this will result in more pain—not less—for pets.

If dog groomers want to get together and form their own voluntary certification organization, that is great. They could set their own standards and have the organization certify those that meet those standards. This would signify to customers that the certified practitioners offer a higher standard of service while still maximizing the freedom and choice of both consumers and groomers that elect not to be certified.

There will always be some bad pet groomers, with or without licensing. In cases where pets are injured or the groomer otherwise does not meet reasonable standards of service, there are already laws on the books against negligence, fraud, breach of contract, and causing harm to people or property. Licensing would simply create an illusion of competence (and an army of bureaucrats) while increasing prices and reducing competition and consumer choice.

Related Research and Commentary:

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