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