Transcript | Town Hall Video Series Part 3

Answers to FAQs (part 1)

Darris Cooper: Hi, I’m Darris Cooper. You know, the CCPDT and APDT shared news of this [dog trainer licensure] initiative with members and certificates and asked feedback from the community. Let’s talk a little bit more about frequently asked questions and considerations to help clarify some of things related to becoming licensed and practicing within a state. Joining me now is Heidi Meinzer, Secretary/Treasurer at APDT, Brad Phifer, Executive Director at CCPDT, and Julia Judish Certification Law Advisor to the Alliance. So Brad, let’s get this conversation started with talking about pathways to licensure.

Brad Phifer: Sure. There are multiple pathways to licensure and multiple pathways to being able to be authorized to license in a state, even if you’re not a licensed professional. That came about because when we first were introduced to the New Jersey bill and saw that it was very CCPDT heavy, you had to be a CCPDT certified trainer in order to practice in that state. We really felt like there were a lot of pathways in our industry where people have gained their education, gained their knowledge, gained their certification. We wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to gain a credential from an organization that they felt related to them, maybe their practices, but also maintain minimum standards across the board so that you couldn’t really certification shop, right. You don’t want to go to one certification and be expected to hold yourself accountable at one level, and then you can go to another certification and not held accountable to that same level.

Darris Cooper: Right. When you think about our industry, we certainly have quite a few certifying bodies out there, right? So Heidi, this question is for you, are there differences for current trainers versus new trainers? And are there any exemptions?

Heidi Meinzer: Ultimately, if you get licensed, everybody will be at the same level. But if you are a new trainer, you’re just starting out, you can begin with a provisional license. So, you’ll just need somebody who is licensed to take you under their wings and, and ultimately be responsible for you. But under the model legislation, there is definitely room for a new trainer or even a trainer who’s been out there for a really long time, but just didn’t have a certification yet. We didn’t want to exclude those folks. We want to bring them in. So the the provisional license is the the biggest way to make sure we bring those folks in as far as exemptions. And, I’m going to turn it over to Julia because she is really the go-to person on this question.

Julia Judish: Sure. And before I get to the other pathways to licensure, in addition to the provisional permit, I wanted to touch on that the provisional permit can be a pathway as you are gaining your certification and seeking licensure yourself. Someone can continue to practice under a provisional permit without the certification for a long period of time in a dog training business, as long as they have a single licensed dog trainer who is willing to be accountable and supervise. However they define that supervision of a provisional permit holder, they can employ experienced dog trainers. As long as there’s a disclosure to the consumer that, you know, this person doesn’t hold the license. The licensure regime has several elements. The big core of it is protecting the dogs by having the baseline level of knowledge and competence and compliance with the standards of practice. But another piece of it is also protecting consumers. And the licensing board is there in order to enforce these protections, whether you have a dog trainer who engages in fraud or a dog trainer who isn’t able to practice safely or competently.

Darris Cooper: Right. You know, the protection of the pets and our pet parents is critical. And of course, transparency and collaboration are really all highlighted with this movement. I think we can all probably agree. The news headlines that come in quite far too often of trainers, unqualified trainers, doing a lot of harm to dogs. So again, I think this is a very meaningful and impactful conversation. I thank you all for having it with us today. You know, of course, you know, within our dog training industry, I will say we have a lot of terms out there that can easily be confusing. And certainly when we’re talking about legislation, this is no different. So, the term reciprocity will come up in conversation and, and Julia, I would love for you to share with the community what exactly that means.

Julia Judish: So, licensure is a state function under the US system. Our goal with the model legislation is that states will adopt basically the [same] structure. And if you have [two] states that have both adopted it, it should be a streamlined process to grant reciprocity, mutuality. Also, to get back to the earlier question about additional pathways besides licensure and the provisional permit, the model legislation calls for there to be authorization short term and medium term for folks who are coming from another state to allow them to practice for some period of time. The model licensure also recognizes that veterinarians and vet techs who are behaviorists or hold BTS behavior certification, they have appropriate training and they’re licensed not by the same dog trainer licensure board, but they’re licensed and accountable as well. And those holding certified applied animal behaviorist or associate certified applied animal behaviorist certifications are also eligible for licensure. So there, there’s just a lot of different paths that all hit the baseline of competence and accountability.

Heidi Meinzer: I could pop in here, too, just as my experience and Julia as attorneys, we’re both in Northern Virginia, right on the border with DC and Maryland. And, like with the legal profession, different states take different approaches about how they’re going to let folks practice right across the border. We’re hopeful that it will be easy if you’re in Virginia, that you can also practice in DC and Maryland, if they’ve all decided that they have to have licensed trainers. So at first it’ll be a little weird because not many states are doing it, but as things get rolling, we think that reciprocity issue will be easier to tackle.

Darris Cooper: Right. In each state where this will take place, there are going to be learnings that come from it. Right. So, that’s going to be another great part of this. Again, this conversation is evolving and I appreciate,  our panel here today. You know, so one thing we’ve certainly learned in the last couple years is that we can do a lot of things virtually and dog training certainly is one of them. So Julia, are there any provisions for remote or virtual training, and state to state training?

Julia Judish: Yes. So dog training under the model legislation could be in person training, or it could be remote. And if you have license or otherwise have authorization from a state to be a professional dog trainer and offer your services, you can offer it in any modality you want. The only issue that would arise is if you’re providing remote training to a consumer or to a dog in a different state that has its own licensure requirements that hasn’t yet adopted reciprocity with your state. But that’s the situation with any profession. That if you’re doing business in a different state that regulates it, you’re going to have to meet those requirements. The model legislation does include these windows of short term and medium term practice where out-of-state practitioners can practice without having to jump through the bureaucratic hoops of getting a permit or a license as well.

Darris Cooper: Right. So a follow up question for you. When we think about this piece of the legislation, which situations are not covered.

Julia Judish: So dog training is defined as providing services for a fee or other financial compensation. So certainly if, if your neighbor or your friend wants you to train their dog, or you want to train your own dog, that’s not covered, if you’re not charging anything. And it doesn’t cover the kind of instruction to dogs that may happen on an incidental basis ancillary to other services. So dog grooming or dog walking, there may be some instruction or training for the animals in the care of the dog groomer, the dog walker, but that’s not primarily what they’re holding themselves out as doing, as their business. There are some exceptions for training of dogs by active military service members in connection with their military service roles, active law enforcement in connection with K-9 training, or there are dog training programs that happen in penal institutions as part of a program for people who are incarcerated there. That’s oversight that is already governmental. And it’s up to those organizations whether to require a license or not. But the model legislation, that’s, it’s beyond the scope of this legislation.

Darris Cooper: Got it. Thank you very much for that. So, you know, I think the million dollar question that probably thousands of trainers across the country probably have in their mind when we’re talking about legislations and licensure, how much is this going to cost the average dog trainer?

Heidi Meinzer: I’ll tackle this one. There are places in the model legislation with brackets because each state is going to weigh in on this. And this is one of those places where there’s a bracket. Uh, we can say we’re going to push as hard as we can to keep those costs as low as we possibly can, but we did not put a specific number in there yet. But we, we don’t anticipate that it’s going to be such a huge number, that it’s going bump people out the market. We are going to keep it as low as we possibly can to be fair to our folks, but there will be some cost to it.

Brad Phifer: And just add to on to that. We realize that there’s a spectrum of dog trainers. Some dog trainers are practicing part time and some dog trainers are practicing full time, and some have a facility and some have employees and trainers who are working underneath them. Our field is really diverse in that. And we talked a lot in depth and had very honest conversations about the concern that I think a lot of stakeholders had in terms of what is this going to cost. And so now I need a license and I had to have maintain a certification, and I had to maintain CEUs in order to maintain my certification to hold my license. You know, there’s a cycle there. So we did build in through to our model legislation that the state licensing board, one of their roles and responsibilities is to come up with a budget for what it’s going to cost them to operate. And that the fees associated with maintaining licensure shouldn’t exceed that of the budget. So we tried to create some parameters, there’s some checks and balances to make sure that this not only, to Heidi’s point, wasn’t cost prohibitive to maintain licensing to practice, but also to make sure thatthis wasn’t maybe a money maker at this state level.

Darris Cooper: Got it. So, you know, this conversation has really been about education and awareness, and I think we’ve certainly spotlighted with this series of the importance of advocacy. So we, of course, want advocacy when it comes to our trainers within our community. But let’s say I am a pet parent, and I know nothing about certifications. I see the funny letters behind my trainer’s name, and it looks like it’s important, but I don’t really know what that means. So I’m going to open this question up to the group as a pet parent. Why should I care if my trainer is licensed or not?

Julia Judish: I think part of the impetus behind the New Jersey bill in 2018 that first led CCPDT down this path are the headlines about the horrible things that can happen when there are unqualified trainers. Animal deaths are traumatizing. Certainly, part of the goal of this is to respond to those concerns. We did a review of some of these cases, and we couldn’t find any of the cases in which any of the trainers held certification. So, there are laws that would provide consequences, if someone commits animal cruelty, but it’s best not to have that dog die in the first place.  And so, licensure is a way of preventing the horribles. It’s also a way of ensuring that baseline of skill and competence. So not a trainer, who’s going to kill your dog, but perhaps, not teach them in a way that achieves your goals and that is best for the animal. And I think Brad and Heidi can speak to that better than I can.

Brad Phifer: Go ahead, Heidi.

Heidi Meinzer: Right? These minimal standards talk about the code of ethics and standards of practice that are a floor. Most trainers out there are already well beyond the floor, quite frankly, in doing just a great job, but you do need to sift out those who don’t have the competence or the knowledge or the skill. And, have that floor there so that the consumer is protected and the animals are protected. It’s a matter of, as Julia said, potential abuse, potential fraud, or just somebody who’s well intentioned, but just doesn’t know any better. It’s a free for all right now. And we want to stop that.

Brad Phifer: When I think, to that point, having no legal requirements to operate as a dog trainer. And we say that most people are, are, are above the floor. Most we said earlier that a lot of people are already following best practices. They’re gaining certification, they’re following a standard of practice, but what we don’t have now through our voluntary certification process that we will have with licensing requirements is the legal enforceability of the standards. Right now, one organization may hold a member or certificate accountable to a standard of practice and say, there’s some sort of disciplinary action or suspension or revocation of membership or revocation of certification. And that individual can still go to another organization potentially, or just simply continue practicing as a dog trainer, without certification or without membership in a trade organization. And they’re still out there potentially making the same mistakes, doing the same harm. And so, one of the things that I’ve learned in all of our conversations over the past 18 months from Julia is it really also comes down to the legal enforceability of these standards and we don’t currently have that.

Darris Cooper: Right? So again, once more, we appreciate this panel for the insight and the true transparency for our community as a whole. So Brad, for folks who want to get more information and have further questions, where can they go

Brad Phifer: Visit our website.  The Alliance website is There, you can find answers to the FAQs, and thee model legislation is there. And we also have a jot form, submission that you can, submit. We will answer any questions you have. You will also be put onto a mailing list for when we are needing more grassroots advocacy efforts in a particular state or region. We can call upon you and provide you with those opportunities.

Darris Cooper: Fantastic. Thank you very much for that. And thank you very much to the panel today and thank you all for joining the conversation.