Friday, October 03, 2008

Working with Horses: Veterinary Practice Acts Defended in Courts

What color is your state? Blue states allow non-vet equine dentists to work on horses; orange states allow non-vet equine massage therapists to work on horses; striped states allow both professions to work independently of veterinarians; white states have either not modified their veterinary practice laws to allow dentists and massage therapists to work or have possibly not adopted the AVMA's newest model veterinary practice act, which tightens restrictions on the definition of veterinary care of animals. Some states may be more permissive, others may be tolerant but have restrictions, such as IAED certification for non-vet dentists, but charges against a non-vet are often based on complaints from horse owners or veterinarians, so everyone is still subject to discipline. In most states there are high fines and criminal statutes for practicing veterinary medicine without proper licensing. Even a a person with a DVM degree is subject to prosecution or discipline if he or she is not licensed to work in a given state. (Map: JAVMA)

An article in the upcoming October 15th edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) summarizes the ongoing legal confrontations going on in Texas and Maryland between state veterinary medical boards and legal consultants defending equine massage therapists and horse dentists.

A third lawsuit, questioning the legality of the veterinary practice act in Minnesota, resulted in a court decision in favor of the vet board in that state, and against the rights of an individual to earn a living as a horse dentist.

In each case, the non-veterinarian practitioners have been represented by the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law concern in Arlington, Virginia. At question is the right of individuals to continue to earn a living, when their occupation has been redefined as within the scope of veterinary medicine under the new vet practice acts adopted in some states.

Five states--New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon--have amended vet practice acts that allow non-vet dentists and massage therapists to work legally.

In many cases, the affected parties have held up horse shoeing (and trimming) as examples of an unregulated field that is allowed to continue without interference by state veterinary boards.

In some other states, horse owners have organized to legally challenge state veterinary boards, charging that they have the right to hire whatever practitioner they wish to care or treat their animals. In Florida, a proposed state law allowing horse owners to choose their practitioners failed to pass the state legislature.

In the case of the Minnesota dentist who protested the law, he would have been allowed to continue working if he had become certified by the International Association of Equine Dentistry (IAED), but he did not want to go through the certification process.

The Institute for Justice defends the rights of individuals to pursue their chosen professions.

Reading this article, and perusing the map of US states that have granted concessions to non-vet dentists and massage therapists is recommended for anyone who makes his or her living working with horses.

What's especially interesting is that the problems seem to be centered on horse care rather than all species of animals.

From the court documents in Minnesota, as quoted by the AVMA: "The state may legitimately exercise its police power to protect public health, safety, or welfare through the regulation of occupations that require specialized training or skill and the public will benefit from assurance of initial or continuing occupational ability ... Veterinarians are the natural group to provide education and training with respect to the overall health and anatomy of animals."

Click here to read the upcoming JAVMA article.

Click here to visit the International Association for Equine Dentistry, whose certification is recnognized in Minnesota.

Click here to meet Mercedes Clemens, the certified massage therapist in Maryland who is no longer allowed to work on horses.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. This blog post was originally published on 3 October 2008 at

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