New Orleans– Every day, countless Louisianans must jump through costly and irrational government-imposed regulatory hoops just to earn a living. But now, the Pelican Institute’s Center for Justice is launching a new effort to fight back on behalf of the hardworking men and women of Louisiana: the Right to Earn A Living Litigation Initiative. Our first two clients as part of this initiative are highly qualified veterinarians who have been unfairly barred from practicing their profession.

Under this new initiative, Pelican Institute litigators filed a petition on behalf of Doctors of Veterinary Medicine Lara Stooksbury and Courtney Breen, experienced veterinarians who have been sidelined by overly restrictive regulations put in place by the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine, a governmental body which sets rules governing who can practice veterinary medicine. Specifically, they challenge a time requirement that blocks veterinarians with out-of-state licenses from practicing in Louisiana if they have not practiced for an average of twenty hours per week without significant interruption in five years immediately preceding application.

“Through this initiative, we will help these veterinarians get to work so they can earn a living in Louisiana, as they are entitled to do,” said James Baehr, Special Counsel at the Pelican Institute. “With their help, we will begin to cut through this ridiculous red tape that is tying too many
hardworking hands in our state.”

Dr. Stooksbury was born and raised in Mandeville, LA, and graduated from Louisiana State University in 2008, then moved with her husband to work in other states. As many mothers choose to do, she decided to focus on her growing family and switched to part-time positions to allow for greater schedule flexibility. In 2021, she moved back to Louisiana, excited to introduce her children to her home. But her dreams to practice her profession in her home state have not come to fruition: despite two active licenses, no board complaints, and 15 years of excellent experience as a small animal exclusive veterinarian, the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine refused her requests to practice.

Dr. Courtney Breen is a military spouse whose husband serves in the United States Marine Corps. Dr. Breen also graduated from Louisiana State University but because of the mobility of her husband’s job, got licenses in other states after veterinary school. Like other mothers, she chose to work part time to focus on her children. When her husband was assigned to duty in Louisiana around 2018, she attempted to have her license transferred here. The Board blocked her from practicing in the state, incurring the loss of substantial income. When her husband’s duty station changed to Virginia, Dr. Breen was easily able to get a license to practice there.

But these two doctors have new hope, thanks to the Pelican Institute. They have the right to challenge unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions in front of boards and courts in the state thanks to changes in the Louisiana Administrative Procedure code, championed by the Pelican Institute. The petition on behalf of Dr. Stooksbury and Dr. Breen is the first in a series of petitions the Pelican Institute will bring on behalf of hard-working Louisianians as part of a new litigation initiative to target such restrictions.

“While it saddens me to take legal action against a board consisting of colleagues, this action is a last resort required to promote meaningful change that board members themselves admit require reform to address discrimination and denial of licensure for many qualified veterinarians,” said Dr. Stooksbury, “It is my hope that this action will break down unnecessary barriers so that no qualified veterinarian is ever again denied the right to practice and earn a living within the state of Louisiana.”

“The Pelican Center for Justice has won game-changing court victories, challenging federal and state overreach in Louisiana and the Fifth Circuit,” said Sarah Harbison, General Counsel of the Center for Justice, “With this initiative, we pave the way for continued success in court on behalf of Louisianans.”

“Louisianans deserve the chance to practice their professions without unnecessary restrictions. We commend these brave veterinarians for standing up for freedom and opportunity,” said Daniel Erspamer, Chief Executive Officer of the Pelican Institute. “With the success of this effort and many more to come, we will move Louisiana from one of the worst states in occupational licensing in the country to one of the best in the next few years.”