No, Dog Groomers Don’t Need Licencing

Public health and consumer safety can be achieved without government interventions.

The Federalist Society

Government covid restrictions forced thousands of small businesses to close over the past 15 months. To some people, this is horrifying. Small businesses are the backbone of any local economy, and government closures left large sections of cities, both large and small, boarded up. Neighbors lost their jobs, and some were forced to sell their homes. Thankfully for most of the country, restrictions are entirely removed or at least well on their way. Now is the time when we should be encouraging small business owners and entrepreneurs to reinvest in their communities. Unfortrualy some believe every area of the economy should be regulated down to the local dog groomer.

Last night Sierra Fox, a reporter for the local Fox-affiliated in Washington D.C., did a story on occupational licensing and dog groomer. She asked her Twitter audience, “Did you know pet groomers are *not* required to have any sort of licensing? There are currently *no* regulations in place in *any* state. Concerned after hearing that?” Fox’s investigation into dog grooming regulations sprang from the death of a dog at a local dog grooming salon. From its website, Life of Riley provides luxury dog boarding, doggy daycare, grooming, training, and transportation services. According to the pet owner, the dog went into the back to get his nails trimmed and came out 30 minutes later having a seizure.

My first reaction to the story was that the groomer must have cut the dog. However, it turns out the dog died of a heat stroke. Whether that is the fault of the dog owner or the grooming salon is currently under investigation. Sierra Fox’s investigation of the story discovered that no state requires dog groomers to become licensed. Incidents like this are often the catalyst that leads the public to demand more regulation and licensing. Even if one were to demand oversight, there are ways to do so without getting the local, state, or federal governments involved. Many of our problems can be solved locally with creativity rather than a once size fits all solution–leading to unanticipated consequences and are difficult to change.

Before we dive into solutions to occupational licensing outside the state, it’s essential to talk about their economic consequences. Occupational licenses are a barrier to entry into a specific field. According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “Governments often create regulations that protect particular firms, industries, and occupations from would-be competitors. These regulations are referred to as “barriers to entry” because they keep some from entering a market. One of the most prevalent and pervasive barriers is “occupational licensing.” The licensing of occupations is ostensibly intended to promote service quality and protect public health.

More often, licensing raises the price of goods and services and locks workers out of meaningful and rewarding employment. Occupational licensing is not just something that troubles libertarians or policy wonks. There have real-world consequences. California limits how many students can go to nursing school. As a result, more than 21,000 qualified applicants were denied entry during the 2016–17 academic year. Those nursing candidates were sorely missed last year during the heart of the pandemic. Most people would contend that dog grooming is not as important as nursing during a pandemic. However, barriers to entry have the same economic effects. They raise the price of goods and services and lock workers out of meaningful and rewarding employment.

Milton Friedman distinguishes between three levels of government control–registration, certification, and finally, licensing. Registration allows for accountability while providing the most effortless entry into a career field. Registtriaon would only require individuals engaged in certain activities to list their names in an official register. Adding your name to the occupational record could require a registration fee. The main concern with licensing is in the name of public safety.

Friedman uses an example of is the registering taxicab drivers. “A taxicab driver picking up a person at night may be in a particularly good position to steal from him. Therefore to prevent fraud and recover theft, local authorities could use a certification system. To inhibit such practices, it may be desirable to have a list of names of people who are engaged in the taxicab business, to give each a number, and to require that this number be put in the cab so that anyone molested need only remember the number of the cab.”

No one wants to buy a defective product, take unsafe medication, or go to a lousy dog groomer. Therefore, some safety requirements can be justified. But the standards do not need to be set by the government. Friedman offers the idea of a voluntary certificate allowing workers to show competency and set themselves apart from their competition. The occupational schools that exist now can still train and certify workers. Economist Mark Thornton says, “the market is well equipped to regulate itself and does a fine job of it.” We all have products in our home that are UL certified, and we don’t think twice about it. We all have products in our house that are UL certified, and we don’t think twice about it. Occupation licensing should be just as easy.

Occupational licenses keep people from gaining employment, starting a business, and generating economic prosperity for themselves and their communities. Rather than increase their use, we should be finding removing them. You don’t need them to be corporate president, a chef, a salesman, or a writer. Thomas Edison was a self-educated engineer, and Abraham Lincoln didn’t go to law school. Registering, voluntary certificates, and the use of social media reviews and rankings can keep the public just as safe as any government regulatory board without the economic consequences.

Husband. Father. Veteran. Purple Heart Recipient Twitter: @actionaxiom