Court Denies Veterinary Board’s Motion to Dismiss Animal Massage Entrepreneurs’ Lawsuit

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · July 28, 2014

PHOENIX—Today, a judge with the Maricopa Superior Court of Arizona denied the Arizona Veterinary Medical Examining Board’s (Vet Board) motion to dismiss a challenge by a group of animal massage practitioners to the requirement that they obtain a veterinary license in order to massage animals for compensation. Today’s ruling by Judge David Udall means that the lawsuit, which was filed in March 2014 by the Institute for Justice (IJ) on behalf of Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman, will move forward.

The Vet Board has enforced its licensing requirement against a number of animal massage practitioners, including Kelly and Granatelli, telling them that they must spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend veterinary school, where they will not even learn how to massage an animal. People massaging humans do not need a medical degree to practice their craft, yet in Arizona people massaging animals must obtain a veterinary degree before they touch an animal. The Vet Board’s actions demonstrate the extremes to which state licensing boards will go to protect their own financial interests.

“The Arizona and U.S. Constitutions protect the right to earn an honest living, and that right has been violated by the Vet Board protecting veterinary industry insiders,” said IJ attorney and lead counsel on the case, Diana Simpson. “Today’s ruling means that Celeste, Grace, and Stacey will have the opportunity to prove in court that the Vet Board’s actions are unconstitutional.”


“I am very happy that the court has recognized the validity of our position and is allowing us to continue with our lawsuit,” said Kelly. “I look forward to vindicating the rights of animal massage practitioners to apply their skills and knowledge throughout the state of Arizona.”

The case is part of IJ’s broader initiative to challenge burdensome occupational licensing laws that limit entry into hundreds of professions across the country by requiring a government permission slip to work. In the 1950s, only one in 20 workers needed a government license to do their job. Today, that figure is almost one in three, and Arizona is among the most heavily licensed states.

To learn more about this case, visit Founded in 1991, the Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty.