Arlington, Va.—Can an elitist cartel of veterinarians use government power to shut down the thriving businesses of Texas entrepreneurs and then refuse to justify or defend its decision to the public?
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 five Texas equine dental practitioners 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.
The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has refused to publicly defend its recent decision to outlaw horse teeth floating, which had been perfectly legal in Texas until the sudden change in policy by the Board. To challenge that policy, a group of horse owners and equine dental practitioners (separate from those filing today) filed suit in August represented by the Institute for Justice. But rather than justify its conduct in court, the Board has engaged in an endless series of delaying tactics.
“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. “Wrapped in its bureaucratic cocoon of arrogance and indifference, the Board acts with total disregard for the best interests and clearly expressed desires of the horse-owning public.”
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. But bureaucrats in Austin nonetheless concocted the monopolistic licensing scheme on equine care, now well-documented by national outlets such as The Economist as nothing more than an attempt to protect a cartel of state-licensed veterinarians by putting Texas entrepreneurs 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.
“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.”
Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice has represented entrepreneurs nationwide who successfully fought arbitrary and unnecessary regulations. These cases include the landmark legal battle to advance 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. IJ also secured the first federal appeals court victory for economic liberty since the New Deal.