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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jul. 28, 2016 3 years ago

Why use a pet professional?

Not all professionals are certified
by: Sherri Cappabianca Staff Writer

Would you ever think of going to a massage therapist or a hair stylist who wasn’t trained and especially licensed? I know I wouldn’t. Who knows what injury could result or what your hair would look like afterward!

If that’s the case, why even consider putting your dog in the hands of a groomer, canine massage therapist, canine hydrotherapist, dog walker, sitter, boarder, or any other canine “professional” who isn’t properly trained and licensed? Unfortunately in Florida, there is no such thing as licensing for pet professionals like there is for equivalent human professionals. Anyone can open a business doing anything with dogs and cats other than veterinary services, and offer those services without a license or any formal training at all. It’s then up to the client to ask the right questions and do their “due diligence” in order to determine if this person is in fact trained and knows what they’re doing.

What type of questions do you need to ask? Among others, there are three that are critical.

• Training. First, do they have any training? If so, ask where they got their training, how long was the program, was it a certification program, and were they certified. Unfortunately, in some industries such as canine massage, one can complete a weekend workshop and get a “certification” or take a yearlong program and get a certification. Without probing further into the length of the training program and what it entails, you’ll never know the quality of their training. Ask if the training program had a “hands on” component, and if so, how many days it spanned. For example, there are canine massage “schools” that certify you when you send in a video of you massaging a dog. This puts your dog at risk for injury and in my mind that’s unacceptable.

• Insurance. Does the practitioner have any insurance to protect both you and your dog? What happens if you slip and fall on their premises? What happens if your dog is injured? Often with these types of “fly by night businesses,” you have no recourse because they have no insurance and very likely no money otherwise. Ask for proof of liability insurance and make sure both you and your dog are covered.

• Business license. Even businesses that operate out of the home need to have a business license. There are many hair stylists and human massage therapists that operate out of a room in their home. But they must have a proper business license to show that they are compliant with all local laws for running a business. The same is true with dog businesses operating out of their home.

People boarding dogs in their homes, canine hydrotherapists operating out of their back yard pools, neighborhood dog walkers, and others without a proper business location or presence most likely don’t have a business license or insurance, and perhaps not even the right training. Those are reasons why they can offer their services for less than real businesses. But at what cost to you and your beloved pet? I know for me, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.

Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat, an intimate and personal boarding, daycare, hydrotherapy and fitness center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit or

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