Horse Teeth Floaters Have Their Day in Court

John Kramer
John Kramer · June 15, 2007

Minneapolis, Minn,—Today, the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter (IJ-MN) will appear in court to argue that Minnesota should stop violating the constitutional rights of Hutchinson entrepreneur and horse teeth floater Chris Johnson.

Chris’s suit, currently before the Fourth Judicial District Court for the state of Minnesota, challenges the state’s unconstitutional licensing scheme that blocks entry into his occupation of floating horse teeth solely for the economic benefit of politically connected veterinarians. The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine lobbied against legislation in 2005 and 2007 that would have opened the market to competition from niche providers like Johnson.

“Requiring horse teeth floaters to become veterinarians is absurd,” said Lee McGrath, a staff attorney with IJ-MN. “Floating a horse’s teeth is a basic skill that requires some hands-on training and common sense—not four years of veterinary school that teaches nearly nothing about horse teeth floating. Besides, Chris is already a third-generation floater. All he wants is the right to earn an honest living without arbitrary government interference.”

Chris is prohibited from working with his father in providing a basic animal husbandry service of filing overgrown horse teeth unless he pays nearly $100,000 to join an elite veterinary cartel by attending a veterinary college. He was threatened with up to $3,000 in fines if he did not stop providing his cost-effective horse-teeth floating service, which was about one-third the price that the cartel charges. Minnesota offers Chris a classic Catch-22 as an alternative: He can return to work if he passes a specialized test not offered in Minnesota, but to qualify to take it he must float the teeth of 250 horses. In other words, Chris has to break the law in order to abide by it.

University of Minnesota Professor Morris Kleiner, a nationally recognized economist who specializes in occupational licensing, wrote in an affidavit submitted to the court last week, “Veterinarians have a vested interest in wielding their regulatory control to prevent more competition for the floating business. Lay floaters, who provide on average a lower cost alternative, have the ability to take business away from veterinarians…it is my opinion and conclusion that the application of [the statute] to exclude floaters such as Christopher Johnson is best explained as the product of private capture and fencing in Minnesota.”

It is natural and important for a horse tohave its teeth filed down because they continue to grow throughout the horse’s life, developing intopoints that cause the animal difficulty in chewing. Chris is trained to safely and effectively file down these points.

The lawsuit, Johnson v. Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine, is the fifth case in the IJ Minnesota Chapter’s campaign to restore economic liberty as a basic civil right under both the Minnesota state and U.S. constitutions. Already, IJ-MN has scored victories for economic liberty on behalf of African-style hairbraiders, family wineries, sign-hangers and trash haulers. The civil rights group is currently litigating a sixth economic liberty case, defending Minneapolis’ free market taxi reforms.