New Jersey May Become First State to Regulate Dog Groomers

bijou bill new jersey regulate groomersDid you know that not one U.S. state requires dog groomers to be licensed or certified?

Because thousands of dogs have been injured or died in the hands of incompetent groomers, laws have been proposed in some states to regulate these businesses. So far, none of them have passed.

Now lawmakers in New Jersey have the opportunity to make it the first state to require licenses for pet groomers. (New York City and Miami-Dade County, Fla., do regulate them; however, this is not done statewide.)

The proposed law, “Bijou’s Bill,” is named in memory of a 6-year-old Shih Tzu who died during a routine grooming session at PetSmart.

“The pet groomer told me, ‘I hope this dog doesn’t give me a hard time. I had a hard day,’” Bijou’s dog mom, Rosemary Marchetto, told the New Jersey Assembly Regulated Professions Committee yesterday, according to “In 45 minutes they called me that ‘The dog is dead.’”

Marchetto would not discuss the details of Bijou’s death because she settled out of court with PetSmart, she said.

The sponsor of Bijou’s Bill, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, said she had done her own investigation into pet grooming businesses. “We just want to raise the level again of professional care, sanitary care and making sure that we’re protecting pet owners and the pets,” she told CBS New York.

The assembly committee discussed the bill yesterday but did not vote on it. If Bijou’s Bill passes the assembly and eventually becomes law, groomers would be required to be at least 18 years old and must pass a test by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. A license would cost about $60 to $75 — not much of a financial burden, Huttle noted.

A similar bill in California, “Lucy’s Law,” failed to pass in 2012. It was named after a Yorkshire Terrier mix who — also during a routine grooming session at a large chain store — suffered a detached retina, severed leg ligament and had five nipples shaved off.

That bill was opposed by many groomers, including Sue McFarlin. “Licensing groomers is not the answer to poor-quality grooming services,” she wrote in a petition she started against it. “State bureaucracy will not improve pet safety or grooming quality, but it will result in less competition, less choice for consumers and higher prices.”

Even if regulations did lead to higher prices, I doubt that many pet parents would mind the extra expense, and the peace of mind knowing that their beloved dog was in competent hands.

Until statewide laws are passed, when you take your dog to a groomer (especially at a large chain store, where many of the incidents have occurred), it could be a life-or-death matter to ask some important questions.

“It would behoove you to find out who your groomer is, how long they’ve been grooming, what kind of track record they have — you need to do this kind of work,” Marchetto told CBS New York.

“I thought it was safe. I thought it was a licensed profession.”

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Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!