Regulating Doggie Day Care

Closeup of white poodle with beady eyes

In my home state of Delaware, legislators are up in arms because it was recently discovered that we “don’t regulate dog care facilities.”

The question being debated on local talk radio is whether dog care facilities should be regulated like everything else. [Source: The Dan Gaffney Show 9/1/15,; also Delaware News Journal, 8/31/15]

Nearly everyone “debating” this seems to take it for granted that everything worthwhile can and must be regulated. It’s also taken for granted that regulation is automatically and always a good thing. In fact, we would not survive without regulation, according to this view. [To his credit, the show’s host, Dan Gaffney, does not share this premise.]

Once the seeming magic of “regulation” becomes the undisputed standard, the only question left is: Are dogs worthy of regulation just like everyone else? And if you’re against regulation of dog care facilities — what kind of dog hater are you?

The question we should be asking is, “What is the point of regulation?” In other words, what does regulation actually do?

Contrary to popular perception, regulation does not protect the public (dogs or otherwise). The rational self-interest of profit-seeking doggie day care owners (or any other business) is the best protection against malfeasance.

No government could possibly supply all the regulators needed to ensure that business owners please their customers in a responsible, rational way. To do so, the regulators would have to take over the business, at which point they would become the owners. Of course, we know from Communism (and many other experiments with totalitarian government) that state-controlled enterprises are beyond worthless. Why? Because rational self-interest — sometimes called “skin in the game” — is removed from the equation. Customer-owner relationships are replaced with command-and-control, politically motivated and impersonal bureaucracy.

In America, the approach has largely been state and federal “regulation” or management of private enterprises. This kind of regulation does not result in outright, command-and-control communism. But it does water down, impair and inhibit the ability of businesses to interact with their customers in a way that best serves both their interests. How many days do you hear someone say they can’t do such-and-such because of some government regulation or another, state or federal?

Under this approach, government regulators attempt to second-guess the interests and judgments of business owners. Regulators have high levels of control over how the business is operated, with virtually no responsibility or accountability for what happens. Why this would make anyone feel safer as a consumer is beyond the limits of sensible comprehension.

Regulation is considered the one thing — the only thing — that keeps business owners from being incompetent, negligent or engaging in willful deception against their own customers.

Such a view is not only naive; it also completely ignores and evades the basic and natural good will that exists between customer and business owner. This is true whether the business is small or large, because large corporations must protect their brand name and reputation even more vigilantly than a small business, if anything.

You might say, “But that’s naive. You cannot count on the good will and rational self-interest of business owners.” But if you cannot — and if all or most business owners are, by nature, deceptive and predatory, as regulations assume — then what are we to ultimately count on? We certainly cannot count on the regulators to make hamburgers, build and program computers, or provide humane and competent doggie day care.

Granted, there’s no way to guarantee every business will act in good faith and rational self-interest. But government regulation proceeds as if there’s no reason why any business — doggie day care, or anything else — should act in its own interest by giving customers the best possible quality product/service at the lowest possible cost.

I do not mean to imply that anarchy is the answer, either. Under a proper system of government, civil courts must exist to ensure that people may hold others accountable when they are negligent in upholding, or otherwise violate the letter of, private business contracts.

If you bring a dog to a facility and that facility harms your dog, you’re free to take legal action. Yes, at that point it’s already too late, as any owner of a beloved dog will attest. But it’s precisely that love for the dog that encourages would-be customers to learn something about a facility’s reputation before placing their dog there.

In states where government regulation of doggie day care exists (I assume there are some), do dog owners go to a government website and check to see if the government approves of that facility, or not? Some undoubtedly do. They want to know if the facility is licensed by the government as legitimate, for example. But will a loving dog (or cat) owner entrust the beloved pet on the recommendation of the government alone?

I will guarantee you that not even the staunchest supporter of government regulation of the doggie day care industry (or anything else) will rely on the government alone.

I’m not against voluntary standards or even private, voluntary and independent accrediting organizations. Consumers should be free to consult any organizations for ratings and standards they wish. Consider, for example, and other websites that provide comments and ratings on restaurants and other businesses.

If these private organizations, websites or other formal or informal accrediting bodies fail to deliver reliable and accurate recommendations, people will stop listening to them. State and federal governments, on the other hand, are not ultimately accountable to the people they are supposedly advising and helping. They’re much more subject to bribery, payoffs, political standards (left-wing political correctness, right-wing religious correctness, and so forth). Because they enjoy compulsive and monopolistic authority, they prod along at lazy, imprecise paces, the style for which government agencies are widely known.

Most people intuitively understand that government does not do a very good job at much of anything. Given a choice between a government employee who’s not accountable for much and a private-sector company competing to give their dog the best possible care, I believe the vast majority would choose the latter.

Yet the overwhelming majority assumes that “regulation” is a must, and that government is the only thing standing between themselves and imminent death and destruction. They appear not to grasp how much they’re really counting on the good will, rational self-interest and quest for profit of their product and service providers in the marketplace.

It’s a glaring contradiction, eating away at our society like cancer takes over a body. So sad … and so incredibly, tragically unnecessary.




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