A Higher Elevation: Pet Groomers & State Licensing
By Malissa Conti-Diener
There is so much talk lately about licensing for our industry. We have many different wonderful grooming associations to belong to. We have many ways to become certified in breeds, breed groups and even in species specific grooming. We do have some options for those that choose to continue to educate themselves as pet groomers/ stylists.
With books, webinars, chat groups and more on the horizon, our industry is really blossoming.
Our trade shows have grown larger and larger each year, with amazing groomers, pet professionals and even veterinarians teaching continuing education classes. These shows grow yearly with more and more groomers flocking to them from around the world. This illustrates that we, as a collective industry, are hungry for new information.
We want to be kept up to date on the newest products, services, styles and even business practices. Many of us want the science behind the haircut. We want to offer the best we can to our customers. We know we are usually the first line of defense when a pet comes to us. We see, feel and notify our customers about things that we discover (that may not be healthy) when grooming. We see pets more often than the veterinarian and want to know how we can help identify potential problems, and recommend veterinary intervention.
Why has our industry resisted the umbrella of protection and elevation from state licensing for so long? Fear. I feel that many groomers are afraid of being told they must do their job a certain way. After all, I am sure every singe one of us has heard someone in our industry, or even ourselves say, “that’s just the way I have always done it and my customers are happy with it, so I don’t need to change.”
But change is inevitable. Our industry is changing daily, new products are introduced, and new scientific based facts are coming to us at break–neck speed. We need this info to provide the best skin and coat care for our clients.
Some protest they are just too busy, or can’t afford to take classes or attend shows. With our industry at a cross road, you can’t afford not to keep up to date on what is happening in grooming today. This industry is exploding right now, and those that are moving forward will be able to stay afloat in the midst of changes. Not only to our grooming itself, but learning things like how to navigate through social media, ratings sites, advertising and more!
No matter if you work for yourself, out of your home or you have a multinational chain of pet grooming salons, you should have a set of written standards to work from. This is what licensing is all about; setting an elevated standard of care. We as an industry need to be held accountable for the actions we take with our business since our business is working on and with living creatures.
There are standards and licensing for many different professions like mechanics, stock brokers, hair dressers, barbers, massage therapists, and more. Why are we any different? What make us immune to being held to a higher standard? I, for one, want to be looked at as a professional in my industry, not just someone who picked up a clipper one day and decided to shave animals willy–nilly.
Our industry needs to have standards of care just like cosmetologists do. We need to have the following in place:
1. Sanitation Standards
This is paramount in our work. We need to maintain a clean and sanitized environment for the animals that we work with. Diseases can easily get a foothold and infect many pets who come into an unsanitary work environment, thus spreading it outside the salon to communities. Many diseases are Zoonotic in nature and will affect the owners and their family as well. Our working conditions contain wetness, dampness, animal waste and animal bodily fluids—a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
2. Standards of Care
We should have a baseline of how every animal is treated when seeing the groomer, including proper techniques for holding, bathing, etc. This is for their safety and ours. We are not veterinarians, and should not ever treat or diagnose any issue a pet may have while in our care. We need to work closely with the pet’s veterinarian so that we can work together for the betterment of the pet’s health. This also will help with weeding out the seedy businesses who circumvent their city licensing, insurance and other safeguards that are necessary to become a state licensed groomer. They will never go away, but it will be much harder for them to operate unnoticed when licensing becomes the norm.
3. Continuing Education
We need to have C.E. as a requirement. How are you ever going to move forward as a professional if you are still using the practices you used 20, 10, or even 5 years ago? Changes are coming to our industry at light speed. We need to keep up and be an educated example of what a professional pet groomer is. We also need to be able to educate our customer on proper care of their pets. We need to know about nutrition, skin and coat, behavior and superior products. This is our job; our customers look to us for advice on these subjects.
4. State Licensing Exam
I think this is what most fear about getting licensed. Taking a written exam and a practical exam. These exams should not be so hard as to phase out groomers, but to show that you have a working knowledge of how to be a professional pet groomer. This is what will standardize our industry. Each state will be able to set its own regulatory rules. You should be able to get reciprocity from state to state for those that move to another state or travel and work.
State licensing isn’t something to be feared. As groomers, most of us are tactile learners. We don’t have time to be studying long hours to take massive tests to show we can groom. We need to have practical rules for hard working people who will take the time to update their knowledge so that they can provide the best care and services to their customers.
We need to have standards for ourselves so that things like groomers being attacked by pets are not tolerated. We need to have safety for our health—no more groomer lung, groomer knees, groomer elbow…the broken groomer’s body.
By elevating ourselves we also learn to set a standard to say no to some things. We no longer must risk our life and limb to feed our families. Customers will slowly adapt to the new rules of seeing a licensed professional groomer. They will also adapt to price changes that come with having a higher standard of care for their pets.
Licensing for our industry is inevitable. I have been working on and off with individuals in my state for more than 10 years now. We are a bit closer, and as a younger generation moves into our industry, they want different things for the industry. That’s not to say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There are plenty of well–seasoned groomers (like myself) that are adjusting to the changes, embracing them and looking forward to the day when we no longer hear these words out of a fellow groomer’s mouth… “Oh I am just a groomer.”✂