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Arizona animal massage therapists win lawsuit against veterinary board


Licensure is no longer a requirement to practice animal massage in the state.

Celeste Kelly, one of the plaintiffs. Image courtesy of Institute for Justice.

A nearly three-year legal battle has ended-the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board has agreed  to stop enforcing the state's veterinary licensing laws against animal massage practitioners. Judge David Udall of the Maricopa Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, signed an agreement that prohibits the board from requiring animal massage practitioners to obtain a veterinary license or to work under a veterinarian's supervision.

The three plaintiffs in the case, Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman, filed a lawsuit in March 2014 after receiving cease and desist letters from the veterinary board that threatened fines and jail time if they continued their massage practices without completing veterinary school and obtaining a DVM degree.

The women didn't claim to be veterinarians and advised their clients that animal massage wasn't a replacement for veterinary care, according to the lawsuit. However, they argued that the Arizona law is so broad that almost anything done for a fee, like animal massage, is classified as veterinary medicine.

All three plaintiffs had all been privately certified in animal massage with more than 10 years' experience: Kelly from Aspen Equine Studies, Granatelli from Equissage, and Kollman from EquiTouch Systems. Kollman and Kelly are equine massage therapists and Granatelli is a canine massage therapist.

The Institute for Justice, which represented Kelly, Granatelli and Kollman, is a civil liberties organization known for challenging licensing laws across the country.

“The Arizona and U.S. constitutions protect the right to earn an honest living, and we believe that right was violated by a government protecting veterinary industry insiders,” said Institute for Justice attorney Diana Simpson, in an institute release. “We are thrilled with this outcome, and it is a wonderful victory for all Arizona entrepreneurs who provide these services.”

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