Arlington, Va.—Can an elitist cartel of veterinarians use government power to shut down the thriving businesses of Texas entrepreneurs?
The Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm that litigates nationwide on behalf of entrepreneurs harassed by big government, doesn’t think so. That’s why today IJ joined with four Texas equine dental practitioners and two Texas horse owners to file suit in Travis County District Court in Austin to strike down an unconstitutional law decreeing that only government-licensed veterinarians may work on horse teeth.
“Texas’ absurd licensing scheme is a lose-lose-lose for entrepreneurs, horse owners and horses,” said Clark Neily, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “It puts people with the experience and skill to care for horse teeth out of work, while forcing Texas horse owners to pay more for lower quality care.”
Horses’ teeth grow constantly and thus occasionally need to be filed or “floated”—an important but painless procedure that prevents or removes small, fang-like “points” on a horse’s molars.
Independent and self-reliant Texans have been taking care of their horses for a long time without unnecessary government meddling. Yet Texas, along with a handful of other states, recently outlawed the occupation of equine dental practitioner. The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is demanding that Texas equine dental practitioners spend more than $100,000 and four years at veterinary school, where they would learn next to nothing about caring for horses’ teeth, or else abandon their profession.
Starting on September 4, 2007, the Board staff will “begin filing cases at the State Office of Administrative Hearings against those persons who have failed or refused to sign a cease-and-desist order,” according to the latest edition of the Board’s in-house publication.
“This blatantly anti-competitive regulation serves the sole purpose of maximizing the incomes of largely untrained, unqualified, ill-equipped veterinarians at the expense of horse owners and Texas entrepreneurs,” said Lee McGrath, executive director of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter. McGrath is currently challenging in court a similar attempt in Minnesota to prohibit non-veterinarians from floating horse teeth. He added, “Horse tooth care requires hands-on training, experience and horsemanship, none of which come from vet school.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Texas entrepreneurs—Carl Mitz, Dena Corbin, Randy Riedinger and Brady George—and two Texas horse owners, Gary Barnes and Tony Greaves. This case is the latest in the Institute for Justice’s nationwide effort to strike down protectionist state laws that stifle entrepreneurship and harm consumers. In May, IJ filed suit in Texas challenging the state’s unconstitutional censorship of interior designers. IJ’s goal is to restore constitutional protection for the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of one’s choice free from excessive government regulation—the right to economic liberty.
Carl Mitz is a third-generation horseman with customers in 30 states. He has treated the teeth of more than 100,000 horses and is recognized as the nation’s premier equine dental practitioner for miniature horses. Dena Corbin is president of North Texas Equine Dentistry and has provided dental services to approximately 15,000 horses. Randy Riedinger has floated the teeth of more than 40,000 horses; his long-time customers include celebrities such as 11-time World Champion Barrel Racer Charmayne James, Phil Rapp, Bob Avila and several top teams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Brady George has spent decades raising horses and has treated more than 2,500.
“I’ve been a horseman as long as I’ve been a man, and I’ve never met a veterinarian adequate in equine dentistry,” said Gary Barnes, who hires Carl Mitz to treat the horses on his 60-acre ranch in Tolar, Texas, and whose father and grandfather were veterinarians. Carl’s services are an integral part of Gary’s business because his horses perform and must have healthy and well-maintained teeth to accept the bit and receive instructions in driving competitions.
Tony Greaves, of Buda, Texas, is one of the largest breeders of miniature horses in the country. His horses, all serviced by Carl, have won numerous awards, including one National Championship and four Reserve National Championships. Since beginning breeding 24 years ago, Tony has never found a licensed veterinarian capable of meeting his herd’s needs.
Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice has represented entrepreneurs nationwide who successfully fought discriminatory government regulation. These include:
Swedenburg v. Kelly—The Institute for Justice successfully waged the nation’s leading legal battle to reestablish the American ideal of economic liberty when, on May 16, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down discriminatory state shipping laws that hampered small wineries as well as their consumers.
Craigmiles v. Giles—This IJ suit led a federal court to strike down Tennessee’s casket-sales licensing scheme as unconstitutional, a decision that was upheld unanimously by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and not appealed. This marked the first federal appeals court victory for economic liberty since the New Deal.
IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor concluded, “Small businesses are the heart of the American economy and the American Dream. Yet across the nation, the power of government is being abused to deny entrepreneurs their right to earn an honest living. The Institute for Justice will not rest until this fundamental right—the right to economic liberty—is secure for all Americans.”