Texas Vet Board Protects Cartel, Not Public

October 3, 2010

By Clark Neily

IJ’s battle to protect the livelihoods of horse teeth floaters in Texas heated up in August when dozens of floaters and horse owners turned out for a rally and a public hearing in Austin.

“Floating” is the term for filing horses’ teeth to ensure proper length and alignment. Unlike most animals, horses’ teeth grow throughout their lives and must be filed down from time to time to prevent their molars from developing long enamel “points” that can prevent the horse from chewing its food properly.

As temperatures outside the veterinary board’s offices climbed above 100 degrees, inside, IJ attorneys, staff and clients turned up the heat on government bureaucrats and their attempt to destroy the livelihoods of Texas teeth floaters. The vet board’s latest ploy is a proposed rule that would allow non-veterinarians to float horses’ teeth using manual rasps but would require veterinary supervision for any work involving power tools. Contrary to the vet board’s entirely unsubstantiated concerns, however, floating power tools, which have been around for more than a century, are not only perfectly safe, but also offer greater precision with much less effort than hand tools.

As usual, the vet board had completely failed to do its homework in proposing the new rule, and dozens of floaters, horse owners and activists lined up to testify about the many contradictions, errors and inaccuracies reflected in the board’s proposed rule. Also present were many state-licensed veterinarians, most of whom criticized the proposed rule for failing to slam the door completely shut on non-veterinarian floating in Texas. Those veterinarians made clear that as far as they were concerned, the vet board has one job and one job only: to protect veterinarians from competition by nonlicensees at all costs and ensure that horse owners have as little choice as possible in deciding who should care for their animals.

During the noon break at the public hearing, IJ led the crowd across the street to Republic Square Park where we held a press conference to publicize the vet board’s illegal power grab and show the human faces behind this struggle. Besides IJ clients Carl Mitz and Randy Riedinger, who are two of the premier equine dental practitioners in the nation, the media conference featured Charmayne James and Bob Griswold, whose livelihoods as rodeo champions depend on getting the best possible care for their horses and not having that choice dictated to them by turf-protecting bureaucrats.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the August 20 hearing and press conference was the extent to which it drove home a basic truth that even the tin-eared members of the Texas vet board must realize by now: The only people who support the board’s campaign against teeth floaters are state-licensed veterinarians. The public certainly doesn’t want the board’s “help” in choosing the most qualified practitioners to care for their horses, and teeth floaters want nothing more than to be left alone to practice their trade in peace.

Disdainful of the public and heedless of reason, fairness or common sense, the members of the Texas vet board behave as though they are unaccountable to anyone or anything. We plan to disabuse them of that notion and remind them that the Lone Star State is a place for rugged, self-reliant people, not nanny-state bureaucrats.

Clark Neily is an IJ senior attorney.

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