Op-Ed: Pets need care, but government is standing in the way



Caring for pets is my passion – so much so that I made it my career. But despite my years of experience as a veterinarian, my love for animals, and a desperate need for veterinary care in our state, Louisiana’s government has blocked my ability to practice my profession. Today, I’m filing a lawsuit to fight back so that other good veterinarians don’t face what I did.

Born and raised in Mandeville, Louisiana, I am a proud LSU School of Veterinary Medicine graduate with over 15 years of experience in exclusive small animal care. My love for animals and dedication to this profession started from a young age when I would care for strays found in the neighborhood. It was a dream come true to bring my skills back to my home state in 2021. But an unexpected regulatory hurdle from the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine blocked my ability to practice my profession and continues to keep qualified veterinarians from practicing in our state.

Despite having an active license in another state, maintaining full liability insurance, exceeding continuing education requirements, and holding a complaint-free record of care for animals, the Board contended that I could not transfer my license from another state because they didn’t consider me a “practicing veterinarian.” Why? Because I decided to work part-time over the past eight years to accommodate my growing family and be there for my children. No statute explicitly requires a certain number of practice hours to qualify as a “practicing veterinarian,” and many veterinarians choose to work in “relief” positions. Yet, the Board enforces an arbitrary 20-hour work week rule as a barrier to practicing medicine in our state.

The consequences of such restrictions are far-reaching. The shortage of veterinarians in Louisiana intensifies, increasing pressure on those in practice and jeopardizing the care our animals receive. Moreover, it forces many of us to seek licensure in neighboring states, resulting in longer commutes and revenue lost to out-of-state income tax. All this while local veterinary clinics desperately need our help. In fact, Mississippi easily granted me a license after Louisiana deemed me unqualified.

Today, I’m challenging this restrictive occupational licensing requirement under a new law that was passed last year that allows any interested person to contest such regulatory barriers. The law, championed by the Pelican Institute and passed on a bipartisan basis, shifts the burden from the challenger to the occupational licensing agency to justify unnecessary rules.

The Board’s stance has not only impacted my career but it has also sidelined many other talented and dedicated veterinarians, whose diverse circumstances and decisions should be respected, not penalized. In an era where the veterinary profession has diversified with different paths and practice types, a work week requirement seems even more arbitrary. A concierge-type housecall vet, a high-volume spay/neuter vet, a corporate general practice focusing solely on preventative care, and an ER vet each have different patient volumes and facets of medicine they deal with on a daily basis. There’s no uniform standard to accurately measure clinical ability and knowledge within a set number of hours per week.

The current Board regulation also maintains double standards, allowing Louisiana licensed veterinarians to work any amount of hours or even pause practice for years while remaining actively licensed, as long as they meet the minimum continuing education requirements and pay their renewal fees. How many of these non “practicing veterinarians” according to the Board’s restrictive rule are practicing every day in our state?

The Board’s current rule also has a discriminatory impact. Over 80% of part-time practicing veterinarians are women, many of whom take time off to raise families. These women should not be punished for these important and personal choices if and when they decide to return to the work force. Other countries respect lengthy maternity leaves as the norm but Louisiana punishes those who prioritize family.

In my field, staying updated with the latest research, technologies, and best practices for animal care is crucial. It’s disheartening, then, that our licensing Board seems resistant to modernizing its interpretation of the law. Instead of being a leader, our state lags those around us in how difficult it is to get licensed here.

Arbitrary rules should not act as a deterrent to qualified veterinarians seeking to practice in our state. A veterinarian practicing for fewer hours or in an unconventional capacity should not be treated as unqualified when the need is so great in Louisiana. Today, I fight not just for myself, but for every vet hindered by this unjust barrier and for every animal who deserves access to their care.



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