Texas to Dentists: Stop Horsing Around

You may not give much thought to traveling horse dentists, but in Texas, they're causing quit a stir: Here's the deal: These equine ...
by | December 3, 2008

You may not give much thought to traveling horse dentists, but in Texas, they're causing quit a stir:

Here's the deal: These equine dental workers -- or "horse teeth floaters" -- go around the state filing down and smoothing down domestic horses' teeth (something that would be taken care of in nature by the horses' diet of hard wild grasses).

But last year the state told the floaters to rein it in: The state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners issued letters telling them to cease their practice. The board says there's no way it can regulate what the floaters do, and if it can't regulate it, the practice must be stopped.

Now the Texas chapter of the Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Texas floaters and ranch owners over what it calls "anti-competitive regulation." From the Houston Chronicle :

With non-vet specialists able to castrate, dehorn, birth and brand large animals, with no public outcry about the practice -- and with the same Veterinary Practice Act on the books for 97 years -- Institute lawyers say Texas' "elitist veterinary cartel" is trying to big foot the niche.

"This isn't a vets-in-the-field issue, this is a state-board-control issue," Institute lawyer Matt Miller said. "The state has a right to regulate, but there are limits to that. Where there is not a specific health issue, where there is not market failure, under the state constitution there's no need to intrude."

States elsewhere vary on how they've handled this issue:

So far, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and California have enacted legislation to restrict horse teeth floating to vets.

Minnesota now requires a certification.

The practice is exempted from the veterinary code in Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, and Florida.

Cease and desist letters have gone out in Utah and Arkansas.

Mostly, though, states have taken the route that Texas had until last year: Pay no attention to this one way or the other.

Zach Patton  |  Executive Editor
zpatton@governing.com  | 

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