Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oklahoma Uprising? Rodeo Star Arrest for Illegal Equine Dentistry Sends Horse Owners to State Capitol

by Fran Jurga | 8 April 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

They say "Don't mess with Texas," but I think there's a PS implied in there: "Or Oklahoma, neither."

I don't usually have much news from Oklahoma but between last year's disease outbreak there, horseshoeing school owner Reggie Kester's recent death, and philanthropist Madeleine Pickens's withdrawal of her multi-million dollar donation to the Oklahoma State vet school because they use live animals to teach surgery, I am singing the Broadway theme song.

Add in the growing popularity of Oklahoma veterinarian Dr. Michael Steward's clog treatment for laminitis, the recent banning of cloned Quarter horses from the state's racetracks and the stiffening of the state's veterinary practice act to classify non-veterinary tooth floating as a felony and I feel like I may as well move there just to report on the news.

But I won't be packing a tooth rasp.

And isn't it tornado season?

In a nutshell, to bring you up to date: Oklahoma's state legislature in 2008 voted to re-classify dentistry work by a non-veterinarian as a felony. It was formerly a misdemeanor. But would they actually arrest someone for illegal tooth floating?

And, if so, which of the state's twenty-odd horse dentists would be targeted?

We found out last month. National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc star Bobby Griswold apparently picks up some money on the side by doing teeth; his downfall came when he sedated a horse and did dental work for an undercover investigator for the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

That's the first part of the story and it reads like a tv script: the first person arrested in Oklahoma for violating the beefed-up law just happened to be a celebrity. A celebrity who may be turning into a folk hero if you read the barrel racing and rodeo magazines and web sites.

I think there is interesting information in Bobby Griswold's biography: his town was hit by an F5 tornado in 1999, then five years later, in 2004, another tornado hit his new property in a new town. And now, five years again later, he's caught up in a whirlwind, of a different sort. And tornado season is just beginning.

The rest of this story is that, according to an article in today's edition of the Oklahoman, about 50 horse owners "stormed" the state Capitol yesterday and a state legislator filed an amendment to the veterinary statutes.

To quote the newspaper:
"This amendment would allow equine dentistry and other animal procedures, such as shoeing hooves and transferring embryos in cattle, to be done without a veterinary license. Those practices now fall under the supervision of the state Board of Veterinary Examiners. The amendment would put them under the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department."

That's the first time I have seen a reference to shoeing in this matter, and it certainly got my attention. Then I re-read it and, being the editor I am, realized that it technically meant shoeing hooves of cattle, which may or may not have been the intent of the writer.

The rally was organized by the Institute for Justice, an organization that has been actively challenging veterinary practice acts in states like Maryland, where a massage therapist stood up for her rights to rub horses.

Somehow, I don't think this is the end to this story. Stay tuned!

Please read information from many different sources before you make up your mind on this complex issue...and please be sure to stay abreast of developments and changes in legislation status affecting the care and health of animals--and who can do what to them, and where and how--in any state where you work on, show, breed, ride, buy or sell horses.

Click here for information from the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (not the state regulatory board, but the association of veterinarians) about equine dentistry and regulations in the state.
Click here for an article in the Journal-Record about the new legislation and the Institute for Justice's involvement.
Click here for the Oklahoman's account of the horse owners' rally and new legislation.
Click here for the Oklahoman's account of Bobby Griswold's arrest for violating the Veterinary Practice Act, complete with mug shot.
Click here for Bobby Griswold's defense fund home page.

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