Victory for Arizona Animal Massage Practitioners

Institute for Justice · February 7, 2017

Tempe, Ariz.—Today, Arizona became a little bit freer when the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board agreed to stop enforcing the state’s veterinary laws against animal massage practitioners. The laws made it illegal for anyone except licensed veterinarians to provide animal massage. This change was in direct response to a March 2014 lawsuit filed by three animal massage practitioners—Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman—and the Institute for Justice. Judge David Udall signed the agreement that prohibits the Board from requiring animal massage practitioners to obtain a veterinary license or to work under a veterinarian’s supervision.

“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 IJ Attorney Diana Simpson, who represented Celeste, Grace and Stacey. “We are thrilled with this outcome, and it is a wonderful victory for all Arizona entrepreneurs who provide these services.”

Celeste, Grace and Stacey each turned their lifelong love of animals into their own businesses through which they offer animal massage. Massaging horses is Celeste’s livelihood; Grace massages dogs; and Stacey owns a horseback riding and horse training business where she also massages horses. Each spent hundreds of hours learning animal massage techniques to obtain private certifications, and each woman has more than ten years’ experience massaging animals.

Despite these qualifications, the Board demanded they obtain veterinary licenses to massage animals. Refusing to obtain that license brought the threat of criminal prosecution, including jail time, if they did not comply. But veterinary school, which takes four years to complete and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, does not even teach people how to massage. It was an irrational requirement, and now it has been eliminated.

“I’m overjoyed—not just for myself but for every animal massage practitioner in Arizona—that the case is resolved and we are now free to massage animals,” said Celeste. “All I want is the freedom to do my job, and I have that now.”

This case has received international media attention, including in-depth features in The New York Times and The Economist.