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Arizona crushes small business owners with anti-competitive laws

Today, the libertarian-minded Institute for Justice (IJ), a law firm, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona challenging the constitutionality of the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board's (ASVMEB) requirement to license massage therapists for animals. IJ is representing three animal massage therapists who disagree with the requirement for them to ask the state's permission to perform their profession to help animals.

Massage therapists do not need a medical degree to massage humans, but entrepreneurs who want to massage animals in Arizona must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend four years of veterinary school where they are not even required to learn massage. The consequences of failing to comply are severe—animal massage therapists face up to six months in jail and fines of $3,500 per violation.

Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman are three Arizona entrepreneurs who decided to turn their love of animals into business ventures. They have spent hundreds of hours learning animal massage techniques to obtain private certifications and each has a successful business providing massage services to a wide range of clients.

But they stand to lose everything. According to the ASVMEB, Celeste, Grace and Stacey are criminals for practicing their craft without a veterinary license, even though their craft is just a massage. Dog groomers beware: You may be next.

“Arizona’s outrageous licensing scheme puts individuals with experience and skill out of work, while forcing animal owners to pay more for extra care they don’t want,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson, lead counsel on the case. “The Arizona and U.S. constitutions protect the right to earn an honest living, and that right has been violated by a government protecting veterinary industry insiders.”

IJ client Celeste Kelly said, “Animal massage therapists should be able to provide the services for which they have been trained, and horse owners should be free to choose these services.”

Today’s lawsuit is part of IJ’s efforts to strike down unreasonable occupational licensing requirements in Arizona and across the United States. Arizona is among the most heavily licensed states in the nation. A victory here will help entrepreneurs create more jobs and provide more choices for consumers.

“The Vet Board’s licensing requirement is a lose, lose, lose for Arizona entrepreneurs, Arizona animal owners, and the animals themselves,” said Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. “There is no good reason to put these animal massage therapists out of work, which is why we are asking the courts to declare that the Vet Board’s actions violate Arizonans’ right to work in the occupation of their choice, free from unreasonable government regulation.”