A bill was recently introduced in the New Jersey Assembly that would require licensure of all “pet” groomers.  Applicants for a pet grooming license will have to pass a practical and technical examination prepared by or approved by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (the “Board”).

At first blush, it may seem entirely reasonable to require licensure of pet groomers.  However, the provisions required by this bill are not practical or attainable, as drafted.

  • There are no national standards for the training or examination of pet groomers, in stark contrast to the standard  requirements for the licensure of veterinarians, the only professionals currently falling under the authority of the Board;
  • The bill requires the Board to perform roles beyond its capability and expertise, and which will expose the Board to potential liability, including: licensing schools that will teach pet grooming; licensing pet groomers, preparing, implementing and grading an examination that will test the technical skills of applicants, including a practical demonstration, all in the absence of any uniformly accepted standards; and the registration and oversight of pet grooming businesses;
  • In comparison, the Board licenses veterinarians who have graduated from a veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, or have completed other nationally approved programs, and have passed nationally standardized veterinary examinations which test the individual’s technical knowledge of veterinary medicine.  The only exam prepared for the Board, which it oversees, is one which tests the applicant’s knowledge of relevant state laws governing the practice of veterinary medicine;
  • Notably, New Jersey does not require licensure of veterinary technicians even though national standards exist for training and testing of veterinary technicians;
  • The definition of pet should be revised to exclude livestock, including horses, who are often bathed and regularly groomed by individuals who are not the horse’s owner.

The bill permits the Board to charge licensing and registration fees to offset the costs of implementation, which will likely far exceed the income of most pet groomers.

While this bill sets forth specific criterion for licensure, it falls short of providing sufficient detailed requirements for the care of animals being groomed, which is presumably the reason the bill was introduced in the first place.  If oversight of pet groomers and pet grooming businesses are to be regulated, it would make more sense to expand the state’s existing laws that govern pet stores, kennels and shelters, for which cage size, sanitation, disease control and veterinary oversight are already specified.