Lisa Jacobson, a single mother from Colorado Springs, Colo., wanted to earn money and support her family while transitioning to a new career., an online platform that connects pet owners with walkers and sitters, was the perfect solution. Lisa loves animals and, due to her experience working with animals with health problems and troubled pasts, many people trusted their pets with her. She earned enough money through her work to pay her mortgage and her son’s college education.

Then, things took a turn for the worse.

A large commercial kennel noticed Jacobson’s success, and their corresponding loss of business — so it filed a complaint with the state. A state inspector informed Jacobson that she would have to shut down her home-based business or obtain a commercial kennel license. To walk neighbors’ pets or watch them for a few days while they were out of town, Jacobson would need to submit a $400 nonrefundable application fee for a license.

But that wasn't it. Colorado does not allow commercial kennels to have carpet or hardwood floor — or a grass yard. Jacobson would essentially need to remodel her family home into a concrete block just to get approved for a license to walk and watch pets. Facing threats of disciplinary action for operating an unlicensed commercial kennel, Jacobson removed her profile from Rover and shut down her business.

Overnight, her income from Rover dropped to zero.

But she didn't let that stop her. Jacobsen testified in favor of a Colorado bill that created a less costly and restrictive licensing structure for online pet platforms that allowed people like her to earn a living.

Unsurprisingly, representatives from the kennel industry fought the commonsense reform, claiming that the licensing requirements are necessary to protect public safety. A representative from the state Department of Agriculture even said that a child who watched a friend’s gerbil for a few days and a couple of dollars would be required to obtain a commercial kennel license under the existing rules.

But thankfully, the licensing reform bill became law — empowering Coloradans to support themselves through work that they love.

Unfortunately, Jacobson’s story isn’t uncommon — and while occupational licensing laws vary greatly across the country, there is little discernable difference in consumer safety outcomes between states. Of the more than 1,000 occupations that require a license in at least one state, fewer than 60 require a license in all 50 states.

Professions including bartenders, locksmiths, farm workers, and upholsterers are licensed in fewer than 15 states. If someone can update a piece of furniture without injuring customers in one state, there is no reason for another state to license the profession. The lack of uniformity in both licensing and training requirements across the nation shows that the process for requiring licensure is arbitrary, not based on any analysis of threats to public safety.

Policymakers need to realize that, despite the claims of proponents, licensing is not about protecting the public — it is about protecting established industries from competition. There are many stories of people like Lisa Jacobson, and protectionism is no excuse for the government to keep people like her out of work.

Aside from an outright ban, occupational licensing is the most stringent form of regulation the government can apply to a profession. Yet today, nearly 30 percent of workers need to get the government’s permission to earn a living.

Proponents like to claim that licenses protect public safety and improve service quality, but new research from the Foundation for Government Accountability shows how far from the truth this is — instead, licensing has little effect on public safety and can reduce service quality.

If protecting the public isn’t the aim, then what’s to blame for this growth in licensing? It turns out that state licensing boards have an incentive to look out for their interests, not the public’s welfare.

Victoria Eardley (@VMEardley) is a research fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability. Jared Meyer (@jaredmeyer10) is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.