Most groomers never injure a pet. They run good businesses, they work hard, and they take responsibility for their actions. Perhaps that's why most pet owners are surprised to discover that pet groomers-those caretakers wielding sharp objects, buzzing razor blades, and hot blow-dryers-don't have to be licensed.
In fact, no state currently requires licensing or has any system set up to specifically regulate pet groomers. Grooming schools offer certification, but that's different from licensing, which is state-controlled. The fact is, anybody can hang up a shingle and say, "I'm a dog groomer."
Not only do most pet owners believe groomers must be licensed, but most people seeking a career in pet grooming also believe there are licensing requirements and are shocked to find it isn't true, says Steven Mart, a management consultant for the pet-care industry, former groomer, and the owner-operator of petgroomer.com, a web site for professional groomers.
"In the last five years, most of the career seekers coming into the field believe you have to be licensed, and they're all for it," says Mart. In Petgroomer.com's 2006 survey of 7,222 people planning to enter the field, 81 percent said they planned to attend a school of pet grooming and 81 percent also said they support vocational licensing of groomers, up from 77 percent in 2005.
As a purebred dog owner, why should you care whether groomers are licensed? Because your dog is in the hands of someone who needs a significant amount of knowledge to do a good job, says Mart. "Consider what an excellent groomer must know-all the different coats, skin conditions, breeds, styles. Plus, the groomer is the one who can catch a lot of health problems the pet owner might not notice. We have our hands all over the dog, we get the dog wet, we see everything," Mart explains. "We can play an important role in a dog's health care, but groomers have to learn how to do that."
The other part of the equation is to give those consumers who do become the victim of negligence some sort of recourse. At the moment, people who have a problem with a groomer must file a civil suit. A bill recently introduced in Massachusetts, MaSB235, would create a state board to regulate groomers, oversee licensing, and investigate complaints.
Every so often, a pet does get injured-or worse-by a groomer's negligence. When a pet is harmed, legislators tend to take notice-and propose legislation to deal with the problem. But so far, every piece of legislation deSigned to require petgroomer licensing or to give consumers recourse in the case of negligence has failed to be enacted. The Massachusetts bill and another in New York, NYS02569 (both introduced in response to grooming tragedies), have the potential to be the first ones to meet with success. Yet because no one has done it before, each proposal has to break new ground. That makes it tough for legislators to come up with a sensible plan, and when they do, groomers tend to disapprove.
Many groomers already in the business don't like the concept of the government getting involved in their careers. Part of the problem established groomers have with proposed licensing laws is that they seem to question their abilities, their business skill, and their responsibility. Most go to school or apprentice under experienced groomers to learn the trade and resent having to go back and start over with licensing requirements. Ideally, most established groomers would be recognized by any new law. For instance, the proposed Massachusetts bill says any groomer who has been in business at least five years is grandfathered in and won't need to be licensed.
Whether or not the Massachusetts bill passes, industry organizations, individual groomers, and pet owners will likely keep campaigning for licensing, because the bottom line is that pet owners expect-and deserve-professional, knowledgeable pet groomers.