The law removing licensing requirements for horse, cat, and dog massagers from Nebraska’s occupational licensing requirement went into effect in April of this year, and Pew’s Elaine S. Povich brings out the human side of what might seem to be a trivial reform:
It took six years, but [Karen] Hough and other horse massagers finally succeeded in changing Nebraska’s law this year. Now, she can massage horses without a license and without being under the auspices of a veterinarian…
“I felt like I was being bullied, and I didn’t like that,” Hough, 66, recalled over homemade lemon pie and coffee prior to giving a massage demonstration on her quarter horse, Prince…
Hough was up against the powerful Nebraska veterinarians’ lobby in this farm-filled state, which aimed to keep the massagers under their purview and require that operators either be licensed veterinarians themselves, work in conjunction with a vet or get a certification in human massage therapy. But in deep red Nebraska, the free-market idea to break the tether between equine massagers and vets prevailed.
Hough’s effort to make a living without government permission was primarily blocked by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association, and the opposition largely based their arguments on the (elusive) guarantees of quality that licensing’s proponents trumpet but are rarely able to substantiate.
These nebulous concerns aside, the bill passed overwhelmingly due to the benefits to would-be horse massagers:
“What drove the bill was it being an issue about somebody being able to work,” [Platte Institute’s Nicole] Fox said. She noted that most horse massagers are women.
Consumer protection is where most supporters of licensing hang their hats, but the usually feeble case that licensing serves that goal must be weighed against the pecuniary and human costs of denying people their choice of occupation. Any time concerns related to employment emerge, the case against licensing as a regulatory regime begins to fall apart.