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FTC Staff to Tennessee Legislature: Consider Making Permanent the Animal Massage Therapy Exemption from The Practice of Veterinary Medicine

Federal Trade Commission staff submitted comments to the Tennessee General Assembly in support of a state law exemption that allows non-veterinarians to practice animal massage therapy in Tennessee. FTC staff recommend that the exemption, which is set to expire next year, be made permanent, because greater competition in the markets for professional services typically benefits consumers.

Unless the Tennessee legislature takes action, the provision exempting animal massage from the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine in Tennessee is set to expire on July 1, 2018, after which the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners may once again determine that the practice requires a veterinary license or veterinary supervision.

In response to a request by Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts, staff of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Economics submitted the comments, explaining that competition benefits consumers through “improved access to services, lower prices, and improved service quality,” and that competition can “spur innovation in how services are delivered.” FTC staff generally encourages legislatures to “maintain only the level of occupational regulation necessary to address well-evidenced public policy concerns . . . [as] competition in professional services marketplaces typically benefits consumers, while excessive regulation can leave consumers worse off.” Unless supported by a legitimate policy justification to protect consumers, the loss of competition can prevent such benefits from reaching consumers.

With respect to the proposed legislation, FTC staff noted that certification in animal massage is offered by schools in Tennessee to “animal trainers, animal handlers, and others who can legally provide certain animal care services without the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Staff explained that not only would “letting the exemption expire appears inconsistent with current animal health training protocols,” but doing so “erects barriers to entry in a profession, which means it can significantly raise prices for consumers and prevent otherwise qualified individuals from using their skills to earn a living.” Because staff is not aware of evidence of a credible policy justification that requires this licensing, FTC staff “strongly encourage the Tennessee legislature to consider making the 2017 exemption permanent [.]”

The Commission vote to issue the staff comment was 2-0. It was sent to Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts on November 15, 2017. (FTC File No. V170007; the staff contacts are Ellen Connelly, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2532, and Connor Shively, Northwest Regional Office, 206-220-4487.

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