By Jerry Kopel
Mar. 1, 2008
You have a dog, a blessed animal that is considered a member of the
family. Or maybe it's a cat, or some other furry four legged or two
As the animal grows older, muscles start to tighten, and you try to help
by massaging the shoulders. Well, keep doing it, as long as it's your
But beware if you massage a neighbor's or a relative's dog or cat. House
Bill 1042 by Rep. Wes McKinley (D) and Sen. Greg Brophy (R) might make
you liable for treble civil damages under the Colorado Consumer
Protection Act for harm done. (Practicing without a degree or
certificate, or for violating the Veterinary Practice Act.)
Beginning Jan. 10, 2010, the Colorado laws governing veterinarians will
not apply to any person performing massage on an animal, as long as that
person doesn't prescribe drugs, perform surgery, or diagnose medical
conditions, and (this is the key):
The person has earned a degree or certificate in animal massage from a
school approved by the private occupation school division ... or from an
animal massage program with an accreditation recognized by the U.S.
Dept. pf Education, or a school exempt from the private occupation
school division jurisdiction.
Massage, as defined in the bill, treats the animal's body for remedial
or hygienic purposes. Examples include rubbing, stroking, kneading, or
tapping with the hand or an instrument or both.
Chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists need not worry,
as long as their activities fall within their statutory authority.
Coloradans were forewarned in October, 2007, that HB 1042 was coming in
2008 by Corissa Baber of the Colorado Alliance For Animal Owners Rights
Ms. Baber told the public that animal owners increasingly turn to
massage for their animals, but veterinarians are too busy treating
illness to supervise or be interested in massage. Thus, allowing
separation from veterinary laws benefits present consumer demand. In
other words, "there IS a demand".
Different versions of HB 1042 have now passed the House and Senate, and
is now in conference committee. It appears no one mentioned the issue of
occupation review under Sunrise. If enacted into law, it definitely will
lead to a new occupation.
"Animal Massage Therapy" signs will sprout up, since this is not limited
to agriculture animals. If you are unemployed, you may just be a "C"
student, but still able to pass the course with minimum competence.
The new occupation did not go through a Sunrise Review according to
Dept. of Regulatory Authority (DORA), and does not contain a Sunset
repealer and review date.
Here is how DORA defines a measure that by statute should go through a
The bill sets up minimum standards for initial entry and provides
limiting and removing from subsequent practice persons who have harmed
the public. If the occupation needs regulation, this minimal entry
"serves to protect the public from incompetent practitioners".
Regulation of a practitioner "can lead to increased prestige and higher
income ... the ... programs are often championed by those who will be
the subject of regulation." "[B]y erecting barriers to entry into a
given occupation, even when justified, regulation can serve to restrict
the supply of practitioners. This not only limits consumer choice, but
can also lead to an increase in the cost of service."
Corissa Baber writes that "claims by these (various Veterinary)
Associations imply that animals are being harmed by practitioners who
administer massage in lieu of veterinary services.
"In reality, there has not been a single instance of a formal or
informal complaint or a lawsuit brought against an animal massage
practitioner or any evidence or instance where a zoon-otic (fully
developed animal) disease was spread via massage. CAAOR expects that
statistic to remain."
Hopefully, she is right, but what does a legislator who voted for the
bill tell an irate constituent whose animal in 2010 has been harmed by
someone who has every right under HB 1042 to continue to call himself or
herself a Animal Massage Therapist despite being incompetent or
performing massage while drunk or drugged.
Get a lawyer and sue? File criminal complaint for cruelty to animals
with the district attorney? "Sorry" says the legislator "we can't help
That, of course, is the reason why a Sunrise review by neutral
researchers at DORA would be a benefit to a final legislative decision.
HB 1042 provides no criminal penalty for practicing in an abusive
manner, although other criminal statutes relating to abuse of animals
would likely apply.
As a new occupation requiring a school degree or certificate showing
successful completion, it should either be a title protection act, or go
through Sunrise and, if passed by the legislature, become a Sunset
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado.