Government Puts Rat Control Business Out of Business

photo credit: Institute for Justice

The Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission (ASPCC) halted a teenager’s innovative – and popular – rat control business because he failed to hold a $78 state-regulated commercial pest control license and pass an exam covering over 40 pages of laws and rules unrelated to his mesh wire rat prevention devices.

Rat Prevention, Prevented

When 17-year-old Christian Alf’s grandmother had a problem with rats entering her home through exposed roof vents, she turned to her grandson for help. Using easily- obtainable diamond stucco mesh wire, Alf created a makeshift, yet very effective, way to prevent the rats from entering.

Talk of Alf’s good work spread from his grandmother to her Bible study group and elsewhere in the family’s Tempe, Arizona community. Alf soon began equipping other homes with similar rat-deterrence devices. Making $30 per home, Alf was able to save money for college.

The Arizona Republic ran a story about Alf’s part-time job in February, 2004.
Approximately 250 callers inquired about his services. Not all of the calls, however, were requests for rat control. One caller was an inspection officer for the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission (ASPCC). He informed Alf that a state-regulated license would be required for Alf to continue performing what was considered by the state to be commercial pest control.

The following day, the inspector arrived at Alf’s home to tell him that he was in violation of state law and could face fines up to $1,000 for performing pest control without an appropriate permit. To obtain a license, Alf would need to pay $78 and pass an exam covering over 40 pages of laws and rules that are unrelated to his mesh wire rat prevention devices. Furthermore, even if Alf obtained a license, he would be required to work for a licensed pest control company as an apprentice to someone holding a Qualifying Party license. The time, energy and loss of income that would be required to meet these requirements brought the popular business to an immediate halt.

Legal experts contend Alf’s business is not subject to ASPCC authority. Since Alf does not use pesticides or chemicals – he is only placing a mesh wire construction over roof openings – they argue he should not be subject to the regulatory policies. Lisa Gervase, executive director of the ASPCC, counters, “There is no discretion as to what method he is using to control the pest. If he’s doing pest control work, it requires a license, both in terms of health concerns and financial concerns.”

Alf appealed his case to the ASPCC, inquiring as to whether or not he can resume his work. Responding to the threat of legal action, Gervase and the ASPCC “determined that the limited, specific facts of this matter do not constitute the business of structural pest control.” With the case ruled in his favor, Alf commented, “I’m glad that the Commission has now said I can go back to work. There are a lot of people who need my help.”

Sources: The Arizona Republic (February 28, 2004), The East Valley Tribune (March 16, 2004), The Goldwater Institute, The Institute for Justice, The Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission

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