Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vet-Span: Watch an Arkansas Legislative Committee Consider a Bill to Clarify the State's Vet Practice Act

Legislative committee hearings are the first step in the life or death of a bill introduced at the state level. In the most basic process, it happens like this: a state representative or senator files a bill, it is referred to a committee, the committee approves or disproves it, and the bill either goes forward to another committee or goes to the vote of the House or Senate. If turned down, the legislation may be abandoned or it may be modified and brought before the committee again.

Each state has a veterinary practice act. Most are modeled after a draft document provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association, but there is variation among the 50 states. One of the most contentious parts of the newer practice acts has been the definition of veterinary medicine to include all acts of prevention and treatment of disease in animals.

At various times, the veterinary practice acts have been challenged with requests for changes or interpretation in different states and it is quite often the horsecare field that is the battleground. Equine massage and equine dentistry are two professions that the veterinary profession seems to have identified as trying to cross over into the practice of veterinary medicine. Horseshoeing, farriery, equine podiatry and the practice of providing hoofcare by any number of other names are often lumped in with other gray-area professions from dog grooming to acupuncture. Horse trainers in some aspects of their work may even cross over the line.

Some states have attempted to clarify or modify veterinary practice acts, but of course it is much harder to change something after it has already been signed into law. Arkansas is one of the states that tried to change, or clarify, its practice act to allow professionals besides veterinarians to legally provide their services to animals.

The Arkansas proposed change was introduced with the new 2011 legislature and had its first committee hearing on January 19. Quite unrelated, the state of Arkansas at the same time introduced live video streaming of its committee hearings. As a result, the entire meeting of the House of Representatives' Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee could be downloaded and preserved on the Hoof Blog.

At the end of the video, you will see that the bill failed its first hearing. Jim House, a horseshoer from Fayetteville, Arkansas and former state legislator who introduced the bill, hopes and believes that it will be modified and reintroduced.

I've been in touch with Jim House extensively about his attempt to clarify and/or change the Arkansas Veterinary Practice Act. The presentation of this video is not to embarrass Jim or to publicize the bill's defeat or to criticize the way the bill or the Veterinary Practice Act in Arkansas or any other state.

The purpose of posting this video is to give you a clear view of the legislative process and how the care of horses and careers of professionals (whether veterinarians or not) can be affected by men in suits sitting around tables who may or may not know what the care of a horse entails. This is democracy in action, because these men were elected by the people of Arkansas. Think about that the next time an election rolls around.

If you are planning to begin or continue a career in the horse industry, spending the time to watch this video would be a good investment. It could be any state. It could be yours.

I've known Jim House (left) for many, many years. He is a horseshoer who has always been passionate, thoughtful and enthusiastic about his work. A former state representative in Arkansas, he said that he actually didn't undertake this project to benefit himself, or even his fellow horseshoers in Arkansas, but to benefit all who work with horses, and those who own them.

The Pandora's Box that Jim opened in his state is wide open, cracked, or at least being talked about in almost every state. No one but lawyers and opportunists will benefit from much of this until the vets and the professionals get together on their own, with the men's suits left hanging safely in their closets and with women, who predominate in both the horse industry and in the veterinary profession, joining in the conversation.

Finding and agreeing on common ground is the most important first step forward, if any of the three groups (owners, veterinarians and horsecare professionals) really wants, as Jim House says, to help the horses and not just themselves.

Meanwhile, the American Veterinary Medical Association is in the process of collecting comments for a new, revised Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA), as announced here on The Hoof Blog in November 2010. Once completed, the new MVPA will be presented to states and the AVMA will hope that state veterinary boards will adopt some or all of its tenets and present them to their state legislatures for approval, thus replacing the existing VPA in each state that adopts it.

So, any changes made to language in the MVPA would stand a good chance of being widely adopted across the United States. And those changes are being solicited right now.


Download Arkansas House Bill 1055; click on "full text" to read the entire bill proposed to clarify the Veterinary Practice Act in Arkansas.

Jim House's passion for clarifying the Arkansas Veterinary Practice Act is presented in this article for Arkansas animal owners.

Hoofcare Publishing provides these resources as information for our readers and does not have an interest in the outcome of the legislation in Arkansas or any other state. Our goal is to pique the interest and involvement by our readers in all matters affecting the betterment of individual and collective groups who care for horses. Be informed. Get involved. But work proactively and collaboratively; remember the words of John F. Kennedy: "A rising tide will lift all boats."

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to
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