Oklahoma House Unanimously Passes Husbandry Bill

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · April 9, 2009

Arlington, Va.—Yesterday, the Oklahoma House voted 99-0 to pass SB 452, a bill created to fix a controversial 2008 law that makes basic husbandry services a felony punishable by $10,000 and four years in prison. The bill now goes to a conference committee where exact language will be added to exempt horse teeth floating—a simple procedure of filing down horses teeth—from the state’s onerous veterinary practice act.

“The Oklahoma House should be applauded for supporting this first step toward common-sense reform,” said Matt Miller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter. Miller, who is currently representing Texas horse teeth floaters, added, “Ultimately, this legislation will create a win-win-win situation: It will save Oklahoma jobs, protect Oklahoma horse owners and ensure that horses get the treatment they need.”

Horse teeth floaters have been safely serving Oklahoma horse owners for over a century. They learn the trade through hands-on apprenticeships or at specialized schools. But a controversial 2008 law turned the practice of horse floating by non-veterinarians into a felony offense. The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has sent cease-and-desist letters to honest, hardworking Oklahoma equine dental entrepreneurs. On March 4, the Board established a sting operation and arrested an experienced Oklahoma floater, about whom the Board never received a single customer complaint.

A poll taken by KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City shows that 94 percent of the public thinks that the controversial 2008 law should be changed. On Tuesday morning Oklahoma horse owners from around the state rallied at the Capitol to demand legislation be enacted that frees the floaters.

“Horse owners and floaters came together at the Capitol on Tuesday to show legislators that there is overwhelming support to reverse last year’s terrible law that turns our floaters into felons,” said Edye Lucas, an Oklahoma horse owner. “We will not rest until the Legislature passes the reforms necessary for horse owners to be free to choose who works on their horses and floaters to be free to pursue their occupation just like every other husbandry practitioner in Oklahoma. Our freedom and the health of 325,000 horses are at stake.”

All leading agricultural trade associations in Oklahoma support amending Oklahoma law to free the floaters, including the Thoroughbred Racing Association, Quarter Horse Racing Association, Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association and others.

The Texas law attacking floaters was recently exposed in national outlets such as The Economist as nothing more than an attempt to protect a small and unrepresentative cartel of state-licensed veterinarians by putting entrepreneurs with the experience and skill to care for horse teeth out of work, while forcing horse owners to pay more for lower quality care. Most veterinarians work hand-in-hand with practitioners to ensure horses’ health.

The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leading legal advocate for the rights of entrepreneurs and has worked with horse owners and floaters around the country. Currently, IJ is representing several Oklahoma interior design entrepreneurs who are prohibited from truthfully describing what they do for a living.