Professional Grooming Associations: The Bittersweet Beginning
by Teri DiMarino
Every facet of life, be it personal or business, has a benchmark moment; a catalyst that sets off a spark, igniting the fire of interest and participation. And as that fire attracts attention and grows, a phoenix sometimes rises from the flames. With a little heat and pressure, diamonds are eventually formed from the coals; proof that things which start out small can eventually turn into big things.
Senate Bill 969 (SB969) was introduced into the California State Senate in January of 2012. Also known as “Lucy’s Law,” SB969 was instigated by a grooming accident in a Palm Springs salon. And while details of the alleged injuries were never properly substantiated, an animal rights activist found a sponsor for a bill that would have licensed and regulated the professional pet grooming industry in California. While its goals were well intended, it was hastily written and poorly composed. The writers had little, if any, knowledge of how groomers conduct their businesses and do their jobs.
While revisions were being made by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (now known as the Pet Advocacy Network) and large corporate interests, a small group of groomers took it upon themselves to gain some attention in this matter. Known as the “Grass Roots Groomers,” heels were dug in and they got the attention of the “big guns” in Sacramento. With the help of the Pet Advocacy Network and pet industry corporate support, SB969, a law that potentially would have crippled the California grooming industry, was defeated by the skin of its teeth.

It was evident that the Grass Roots Groomers played a very important role in the defeat of this devastating bill. They had garnered the respect of big corporate and the Sacramento lobbyists. One of the most poignant realizations was that this was accomplished by regular, everyday groomers. They had banded together into a cohesive unit and accomplished what was perceived as impossible. They had proven that there is strength in numbers.

The phoenix which rose from the flames became what is now the California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA).1 While there have been several good organizational efforts for state associations across the country, this non-profit, tax-exempt organization has proven itself to be one of the premier industry associations. And, it was all put together by professional pet groomers—not attorneys, not lobbyists, but pet groomers. It was a huge lesson, as none of them had any experience in the formation of these sort of things. The CPPGA has since served as a model for associations across the country, encouraging and assisting other groomers to step up and organize within their states.
The diamond that emerged from the coals was the Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Association (PPGSA) “Standards of Care, Safety and Sanitation.”2 These “Standards” are the culmination of nearly two years of hard work between fifteen existing pet and grooming industry associations and companies. Under the guidance of the Pet Advocacy Network, the Standards are simply common sense on paper. They reflect the proper way a salon should conduct their business. The Standards do not address styling, but instead focus on the care we need to practice with the pets we serve on a daily basis. Safety and sanitation are fundamental. If a salon runs a clean, safe, caring business, then they are compliant with the PPGSA Standards.

However, what the PPGSA Standards really accomplished was giving the industry a document that good, fair legislation aimed at groomers can be patterned after. Legislators have little idea of how groomers work, and the Standards outline what are normal and customary operating procedures that help keep the animals, and the groomers, safe. It has become the “go-to” document for several ordinances and bills across the United States.

People often ask how a state grooming association will benefit them. While membership or participation in an association may not garner instant gratification, it is the long-term benefit that is so important. Many groomers join an association, only to allow their membership to lapse. They don’t realize that their continued support with annual renewal dues boosts the economy of the organization. These funds are held in reserve to pull from when the need arises-and the need will arise one day in the form of attorneys and lobbyists who will speak for the industry on behalf of every groomer in that state.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many groomers were forced to shut their doors, while in other states they were able to keep their businesses open. With so many unanswered questions, activity levels within these organizations escalated, only to have people drop off when their help and information was no longer needed. It seems many people only support and participate during a crisis or when there is a need.

A single groomer can only do so much when confronted with legislative issues. While calls and letters all help, an organized effort is needed to drive in the point and be recognized. The CPPGA could not have accomplished what it has without the help of other more experienced organizations like the Pet Advocacy Network and the National Animal Interest Alliance. They taught groomers what to say, what to write and how to communicate their needs without sounding like a bunch of whining individuals.

Simply put, the best reasons for participation in a state association are:

1. Strength in unity: A unified voice is better heard and respected.
Professional associations can offer so much to an industry. When legislation needs to be addressed, an organized association achieves so much more than a single voice. It is taken more seriously as the work it takes to simply form a professional group speaks volumes about its commitment to the cause.
grooming association timeline

Lucys Law graph
Grass Roots Groomers
2. Support: Groups with common goals are better equipped to give members what they need to grow.
Consistency is the key to any successful business. A cohesive group of people with the same goals in mind will better understand the needs of their members and help them achieve goals to improve and enhance their place in the industry.
3. Member benefits: Associations offer members better access to educational and social opportunities.
Membership has its perks. For some, it might be as simple as a certificate or plaque displayed on a wall; others may offer access to special training or educational events. Benefits of membership may vary from association to association, but one thing they all have in common is that membership in a professional association tells your clients you care. A pledge to follow an association’s Code of Ethics speaks volumes to the customer and validates how a professional groomer feels about their business.
It all starts with a spark. We are all pet groomers, so organizing something like a state association will seem like a daunting task. But we are—or at least should be—businesspeople as well. We continue to learn, and this is just another learning experience. Here are some of the steps it takes to get started:
1. Assemble a team and appoint officers.
State your objectives and gather people with common goals and interests. This may require setting aside any personal differences and working with someone you may have some conflicts with, but overlooking these differences is necessary to make things work.

Be sure to select participants with diverse skills. Someone may be a good leader (president & vice-president) or be adept in accounting (treasurer); another might have good organizational skills (secretary) while someone else excels in social media or technology. Everyone has a hidden skill. Nervousness or a person’s hesitancy to be assertive is the most common reason people are reluctant to step up. To make good things happen, participants will need to develop confidence, just like in our businesses.

2. Establish a Mission Statement, Bylaws and Code of Ethics.
These items can be quite intimidating, but, when broken down, they are actually rather simple. A Mission Statement should provide direction and the clear purpose of the organization. It is a short statement indicating why the organization exists and briefly reflects the goals of an organization. It can state who the primary focus of the organization is, what products or services will be provided, and to what geographical area. It can be as simple as one or two sentences, or be quite lengthy and detailed.

Bylaws are the structure by which the organization will function. They provide for meeting protocol, how the Board of Directors and officers are chosen or elected, officer duties, filling vacancies of the board, appointing committees and other routine conduct. Basically, these are a contract among members, and any additions or changes must be formally adopted. There are simple bylaw templates that can be adopted and templates available online that can be utilized.

While you’re at it, compose a Code of Ethics. This is a simple guide of principles designed to help professionals conduct business with honesty and integrity. It may outline the mission and values of the organization and state the industry’s ethical principles and standards.

3. Acquire an Incorporation and seed money.
These go hand in hand as all associations need some funding to get off the ground. There is a cost to filing Articles of Incorporation as a non-profit association within your state, but funding might come from member contribution or sponsorship. This is also an area where you may require the skills of an attorney. The designation as a non-profit comes with its own set of idiosyncrasies and it is best to get legal advice. Here is where knowing your client base can come in handy as some attorneys sometimes do pro bono (or free) work. An attorney who is a grooming client may just want to help their pet’s favorite groomer with this work. It never hurts to ask!

State associations are all non-profit organizations. They are usually incorporated under their state guidelines, with most applying for a Federal 501(c)(6) designation. This is a tax-exempt status that places an association in the same category with business leagues, chambers of commerce or real estate boards. These organizations are created to aid in the improvement of the businesses. Donations to these types of organizations are not tax deductible, but your annual membership dues in these associations are since it is a membership in an organization that directly relates to and benefits your business.

Many of these steps overlap. You will need to open a bank account but will have to show bylaws or corporate papers to do that. Be as accurate as you can with the keeping of meeting minutes as a copy of these minutes will be needed to open accounts and appoint signers on these accounts. This is also a good time to be friendly with your banker as they can hold your hand through the financial process.

How do you join or start an association?
4. Establish a membership.
Decide who can apply for membership and spell out your criteria. In the grooming industry, that might include bona fide professional groomers. But will you include beginning groomers or bathers? What about non-grooming salon owners? What requirements are you asking and how will you vet these applicants? You may ask that applicants pledge to follow your Code of Ethics. This works for individuals, but a group or salon may not be able to pledge for everyone in their employment. These are all things to think about.

An association usually serves the professionals of their state. Any action regarding legislation in that state can only be addressed by residents of that particular state. So, a person in New Jersey cannot weigh in on Utah law. It is recommended to keep your membership to residents of your state, but you might have another designation of membership for sponsors or supporters that are based out of state. These may or may not have the same benefits of membership as your associate members.

Membership management has long been the bane of many a volunteer organization. Tracking memberships and monitoring renewals can be cumbersome and time consuming. While there are computer database programs available, there are several membership management companies that offer a “one-stop shop” for non-profit associations. They can process member registrations and renewals through their own built-in finance applications. Some allow you to list events and take registrations. The ability to host a website is a plus, as everything will be intermingled. These web-based services do come at a price, and it is usually based on the number
of contacts you put into the system. This is where coming up with a price of membership and renewal is important.

Initial enrollment of a new member may cost a bit more, as it may come with a certificate or plaque, and renewals may be slightly lower. But, whatever you decide, keep it reasonable for both the member and the association. You want groomers to afford it, but the association still needs monies to function.

5. Create a website and social media accounts.
While a Facebook page or group is a good place to start to garner interest, it does not always mean that a person is a member of the association. It is an informational page that should steer people to want to participate in the organization. Monitoring these groups can be a daunting task, but appointing a Facebook “watchdog” committee can help keep things in line. Most associations have certain requirements to join a Facebook group. This keeps out unwanted soliciting or undesirable posts.

A good website will be your information center. Listings should include your Mission Statement, your Code of Ethics, the board of directors and committees, a list of the benefits of membership, information on how to join and a “contact us” email address, just to name a few. It can also be a place where members can find informative tools or information about upcoming educational events and trade shows.

While this has briefly outlined the “how to” of organizing an association, one must remember that forming a professional association is a commitment to the industry. It should reflect the passion we all have for grooming and our desire to help groomers be the best they can be. It is not easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. It is, however, extremely satisfying.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be the “perfect storm” for the formation of many newer associations, as groomers across the country were all looking for information on how the recent pandemic was affecting their businesses. There are so many states that have taken up the challenge and now have successful professional associations. And while some of these organizations may still be in the “Facebook group” stage, at least they have succeeded in getting the ball rolling.

While there have been several good attempts at organizing a main clearinghouse for state associations, I am optimistic that there will soon be a central place where we can all share information about impending state legislation and continued educational opportunities within our industry. The steps I have outlined above are only the basics of the formation of a state association. There is so much these states can share amongst themselves.

One last point to highlight: All of these associations are being run by volunteers—volunteers that are groomers! They do it for the love of the pets and our industry. Do not wait until a crisis hits your state to become involved in a state association. By the time you really need one, it may be too late to form one.

It’s not a matter of if your state will need an association, but when. Groomers in your state will need their association to be their voice in matters critical to preserve our beloved industry and allow us all to continue practicing the careers we all so love.

So, what are you waiting for? From the flames rises the phoenix, and he has a diamond clutched in his talons. Be a phoenix—get involved!


  1. California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA) (
  2. Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists (PPGSA) Standards of Care, Safety and Sanitation (

Teri DiMarino is a 50-year veteran of the pet grooming industry, President and a founding member of the California Professional Pet Groomers Association, Inc. Visit the website at or email at