Paws Down on Arizona’s Animal Massage Law

In February, three Arizona entrepreneurs demonstrated—once again—the power of coming together to stand up to the government in the face of burdensome regulation. Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman are now free to practice their craft after the Arizona Veterinary Medical Examining Board agreed to stop enforcing a law that allowed only licensed veterinarians to massage animals.

Celeste, Grace and Stacey are all animal massage practitioners who run their own successful businesses. They each opened their businesses over a decade ago and built thriving practices offering services they were trained to provide after becoming certified in animal massage. But the state of Arizona had different plans. The Veterinary Medical Examining Board determined that animal massage was the practice of veterinary medicine and sent cease-and-desist orders to Celeste, Grace and other Arizona practitioners threatening them with fines and jail time if they continued. In order to comply with the state’s demands, they would need to graduate from veterinary school and pass a multitude of exams to become licensed veterinarians.

But therein lies the rub: Veterinary school does not even teach massage and the exams do not test massage. If the state had its way, Celeste, Grace and Stacey would be forced to spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars without learning anything about the very thing they already know how to do.

IJ spent three years deep in litigation and, on the eve of an important legal filing where we demonstrated the irrationality of Arizona’s system, the state capitulated and negotiated with Celeste, Grace and Stacey for a victory for them and every animal massage practitioner in Arizona. The judge entered a consent judgment that prohibits the board from requiring veterinary licenses for any animal massage practitioner in Arizona or subjecting any animal massage practitioner to harassment or legal penalties for practicing their craft.

The judgment brought a complete victory and a successful end to our lawsuit. Celeste, Grace and Stacey filed this case to vindicate one of the most imperative constitutional rights, the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government regulation, and they succeeded.

This victory continues the long tradition of IJ protecting economic liberty in Arizona. Since opening its doors in the Grand Canyon State 15 years ago, IJ has never lost an economic liberty challenge in the state. We will continue to build on that tradition and defend the right of all Arizonans to earn an honest living.

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