Op-Ed: N.J. Doesn’t Need Burdensome Laws for Dog Groomers

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Op-Ed: N.J. Doesn’t Need Burdensome Laws for Dog Groomers

Dog being blown by groomer with hairdryer.Studio shot. Dachshund

The Star-Ledger- Newark, NJ

N.J. doesn’t need burdensome laws for dog groomers

Written by: Dr. Edward Timmons – Guest Columnist

A dog is a man’s best friend, but does this mean New Jersey should start licensing dog groomers, as legislators in Trenton are currently considering? There are better ways to protect the Garden State’s dogs- and some promising things are already happening.

The Assembly passed bill 3044 (also named Bijou’s Law, after a Shih Tzu who died after a trip to the groomer) in October. The bill is now before the Senate. If it becomes law, New Jersey will be the only state in the nation that requires dog groomers to obtain a license to work. Advocates certainly have their hearts in the right place, but licensing will not prevent future tragedies and will impose needless costs on consumers.

We know this because there is a growing pile of research on the effectiveness of “occupational licenses” similar to those that New Jersey groomers may soon need. Some licenses are common across states, while others- like those for florists in Louisiana or elevator operators in Massachusetts – are unique.

Occupational licensing has grown from affecting 5 percent of workers in the early 1950s to more than 20 percent of workers today.

     There are better options available to help protect consumers and their dogs from poor quality grooming service.

Research continues to show that it raises prices for consumers without much convincing evidence that it improves the safety or quality of the service. In fact, some research suggests licensing may reduce the quality of service.

There are better options available to help protect consumers and their dogs from poor quality grooming services. For example, dog-grooming establishments could be subject to increased oversight, such as random inspections. Private-market functions like user-feedback ratings (think Uber or Amazon) coupled with independent ratings agencies can provide the most valuable commodity of all for consumers: information regarding the reputation of providers.

A robust court system, meanwhile, can keep people accountable. Indeed, some New Jersey dog owners have utilized the court system to seek damages. Compared with these methods, occupational licensing is weak and ineffective.

Among other requirements, Bijou’s Law requires aspiring pet groomers in New Jersey to pay a $75 application fee and a $50 biennial renewal fee to the state. It is not clear how requiring workers to pay the fee improves the quality of the service they provide, or how it could prevent the death of a dog. Passing a state-mandated written test on dog grooming doesn’t necessarily translate into more dog safety either.

A much better solution may already be on the horizon. In September, NJ Advance Media investigated claims of deaths associated with dog grooming. Brachycephalic dogs (such as English bulldogs) accounted for more than 40 percent of documented deaths. Dogs belonging to this breed often have trouble breathing in stressful environments, such as the very warm areas in dog-grooming establishments. As a result of growing public awareness, establishments such as PetSmart have implemented new “express service” for brachycephalic dogs.

In other words, better information and awareness are already helping to alleviate the problem. There is no need for a licensing law.

Instead of licensing a new occupation, New Jersey should take a hard look at its current licensing practices and determine where existing laws may be doing more harm than good. Needless fees and exams are not helping consumers and discourage New Jersey citizens from securing honest work in order to begin their climb up the economic ladder.

Licensing dog groomers is more of the same failed policy approach. The citizens of New Jersey, and their dogs, deserve better.