Jerry Kopel

Dog Massage Therapy

May 13, 2008

By Jerry Kopel


"Nearly three million Coloradans own at least one furry friend. Yes, in Colorado we love our animals," according to 5280, a Denver magazine that presented its April issue as the Definitive Pet Guide.

If we truly love our animals, the Colorado legislature and Gov. Bill Ritter through House Bill 1042 just opened up a new, possibly lucrative occupation for you or some friend who has just lost a job.

The new stand-alone occupation? Animal massage therapist.

Here is what the new law states, followed by my explanation:

CRS 12-64-104, "This (veterinary medicine ) article shall not be construed to prohibit:

1. Any person from performing massage on an animal if:

a. The person does not prescribe drugs, perform surgery or diagnose medical conditions; and

b. The person has earned a degree or certificate in animal massage from

1. A school approved by the private occupational school division of the Colorado Dept. of Higher Education under Article 59 of Title 12;

2. An out-of-state school offering an animal massage program with an accreditation recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education, or

3. A school that is exempt under CRS 12-59-104." (There are 20 such exemptions and a potential student should review them.

"Massage defined: A method of treating the body for remedial or hygienic purposes through techniques that include, without limitation, rubbing, stroking, kneading, or tapping with the hand or an instrument or both. These techniques may be applied with or without the aid of a massage device that mimics the action possible using human hands."

The law goes into effect ninety-one days after the final adjournment of the legislature and the provisions apply to treatment of animals on or after the effective date.

HB 1042 was pushed through the legislature with the help of Corissa Baber of the Colorado Alliance for Animal Owners Rights. She has claimed veterinarians are too busy treating illness to supervise or be interested in massage.

It is logical to assume there are three million domestic dogs, cats, rabbits and other furry creatures in Colorado whose muscles start to tighten with age and who would benefit from massage. (Half being two owners with one pet, and half being one owner with two pets.)

Persons who will also benefit from HB 1042 are those with valid certificates able to legally perform animal massage therapy in August, 2008, without any further regulation.

How many are there in Colorado? HB1042 never went through the Sunrise process to determine if the occupation should be regulated. That's because the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies accepted the proponents claim that there were only 20 potential animal massage therapists who would be able to provide the services.

Twenty? If only one percent of furry animals are treated annually with massage, that could be 30,000 animal visits to massage therapists or as many as 120,000 quarterly visits.

That sounds like a gold mine. Other states that recognize the occupation have programs for teaching potential therapists without anyone having to wait for Colorado programs to flourish.

No regulatory control exists, except the seven member veterinarian medicine board, who could act only if the therapist certificate was fake. Of course, pet owners could bring individual actions for animal abuse, or for therapists practicing (and this is harder to prove) beyond the scope of their ability. But who has the time and money for such an effort?

5280 magazine claims the "average cost of annual veterinarian visits for dogs is $219".

If a dog or other furry animal massage were priced at $50, and there were 120,000 visits per year, that would be a gross of $6 million divided by the number of Colorado therapists holding valid certificates.

The legislature should have made certain "the twenty" don't have a monopoly by extending the time frame for obtaining a certificate before allowing the independent practice.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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