Stooksbury v. Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine

Stooksbury v. Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine

Occupational Licensing Boards Shouldn’t Concoct Unnecessary Rules to Block Qualified Veterinarians from Practicing their Profession

The Story

As she grew up in Mandeville, LA, Dr. Lara Stooksbury always felt a strong connection to animals. After graduating from LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 2008, she became licensed in Nevada, where she worked for six years. In 2012, she and her husband celebrated the birth of their first child, and by 2014, moved to Georgia for her husband’s job. In Georgia, she applied for and easily received a veterinary license to practice there.

Dr. Stooksbury’s childhood loss of her mother made her prioritize spending quality time with her own children. As her family grew, she decided to adjust her work schedule so that she could be there for her kids.

When she returned to Louisiana in 2021, Dr. Stooksbury looked forward to continuing her professional career. She had heard rumors though of how difficult the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine’s rules were to apply to work here. In 2022, she applied for a waiver to practice, armed with an impressive record: 15 years of exclusively treating small animals, consistently maintaining all necessary licenses, and never facing any professional complaints. However, Louisiana’s Board declined her request. They cited their internal “Practice Time Requirement,” which stipulated a minimum of hours of work per week for the past five years to waive a retake of the full veterinarian exam. This rule was in place even though no formal definition of a “practicing veterinarian” based on work hours exists in the state statutes.

Dr. Stooksbury, committed to returning to practice and helping other similarly situated veterinarians, repeatedly requested that the Board reconsider their interpretation, highlighting that many “relief veterinarians” worked unconventional hours. She argued against the Board’s narrow perspective, emphasizing that the Practice Time Requirement was an arbitrary rule without data-backed justification, and one that was applied inconsistently to in-state veterinarians. She emphasized the profession’s diversity, highlighting that veterinarians could now have various specialized roles, all requiring different amounts of work time. Dr. Stooksbury also underscored how the regulation disproportionately affects female veterinarians, as a significant portion of part-time veterinarians are women, many of whom take time off for family.

The Board refused to relent. Their decision harmed Dr. Stooksbury, both financially and professionally. She had to spend time and resources preparing for and retaking the NAVLE test, which covered topics from cows to iguanas that were irrelevant to her area of expertise. Through this process, she connected with many other vets who had faced similar issues with the Board, like Dr. Courtney Breen, another LSU graduate whose efforts to transfer her license to Louisiana when her husband was stationed here on military orders were blocked. Even after a partial rule amendment in October 2022 by the Board, the barriers persisted for many.

In 2022, Act 583 was passed, allowing challenges against “an occupational regulation” by boards. The Act shifted the responsibility onto the board to justify their rules. Using this new provision, Dr. Stooksbury, Dr. Breen, and the Pelican Institute petitioned the Board in March 2023, advocating against the Practice Time Requirement. However, the Board denied the petition, forcing the petitioners to file a lawsuit in state court to enforce their constitutional and statutory rights.

The Latest

On August 8, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed its Petition on behalf of Dr. Stooksbury and Dr. Breen in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

The Timeline

  • Petition. On August 8, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed its Petition on behalf of Dr. Stooksbury and Dr. Breen in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.
  • Answer. On November 17, 2023, the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine filed an Answer to the Petition.

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The Center for Justice is a public-interest law firm that represents at no cost clients seeking to advance freedom and opportunity in Louisiana and the Fifth Circuit.

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