Sandefur is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation which
filed a friend of the court brief in Wayne County v. Hathcock.[go
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Pests Or Controlling Competition?
Legislating business out of business...
[Timothy M. Sandefur] 9/6/04
In May Pacific Legal Foundation filed
a civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Bay Area
business owner Alan Merrifield,
with imposing a harsh and needless licensing requirement on his
decades-old pest control business. The state’s pest control
law is supposed to protect the public from the misuse of chemicals
or pesticides, but Mr. Merrifield does not use chemicals. Instead
of protecting the public, the law is being used to protect established
pest control companies from having to compete with Mr. Merrifield
and his company, Urban Wildlife Management.
is highly respected and experienced. For over 30 years, Mr.
Merrifield has used screens, nets, and other
nonchemical methods in homes and businesses to ward off rats,
pigeons, and other pests. Urban Wildlife has 6 state licenses
and over 15 special training certifications, and provides services
in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda Counties.
bureaucrats started demanding that Mr. Merrifield obtain yet
another license—a so-called “Branch
2 Structural Pest Control Operator’s License.” The
requirements for obtaining a Branch 2 license are onerous: applicants
must pass a 200-question test on the proper methods of chemical
use, but no one may take the exam without first serving a two-year
apprenticeship for a company that already has a Branch 2 license.
The penalties under the law are serious, too. Practicing structural
pest control without a license is a misdemeanor, punishable by
up to six months in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
Although the 66-year-old Merrifield has three decades of pest
control experience, getting a Branch 2 License would mean closing
his business for two years to become an apprentice. State transportation
officials have refused to allow his company to bid on the installation
of pigeon exclusion spikes on the San Francisco Trans Bay Terminal
because he lacks a Branch 2 license. Other bids by Urban Wildlife,
including a project bid submitted for the Elihu Harris State
Building in Oakland, have also been rejected for the same reason.
This case represents government bureaucracy at its worst. All
Americans have the constitutional right to earn a living without
unfair government interference. It is ridiculous that Mr. Merrifield
would have to close his business for two years to become an apprentice
in a field in which he is already more than qualified.
Merrifield and his business, Pacific Legal Foundation is also
representing the California Nuisance
Wildlife Control Operators Association,
a trade organization made up of people who use nonchemical pest
control methods. Defendants in the suit are the members of the
state’s Structural Pest Control Board and the Attorney