Texas Veterinarians: Horse Teeth Floaters Are Breaking the Law

Who knew that in one week Hair Balls would write not one, but TWO stories about horse teeth floaters and live to tell about it.

As we discussed on Thursday, Libertarians rallied in Austin on Friday to protest changes to rules that could negatively affect the career path of horse teeth floaters - guys who file down horse teeth. Libertarians were angry (what else is new?) about potential restrictions on people who have been performing these jobs "for generations."

Friday morning, Hair Balls received an e-mail response from Elizabeth Choate, the Director of Goverment Relations and General Counsel for the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (the same group being protested) to explain that these practitioners have been breaking the law for years.

"Some horse owners mistakenly believe that vital procedures--such as reducing sharp points of teeth, correcting alignment or extractions--can be done by unsupervised, unregulated, non-veterinarians (UUNVs). Our state in now plagued by such 'lay' people who misrepresent themselves as skilled equine dentists," she wrote in the email.

In an effort to gain a little more understanding of equine dentistry, we did some searching and found that Texas isn't the only state wrestling with this issue. In 2009, a rodeo cowboy was arrested in Oklahoma for performing the procedure without a veterinary license, a felony in that state.

Ed Knocke wrote for the following for the ESPN story:

But, in reality, the law is way out of whack. There are around 1,700 veterinarians in Oklahoma, and there are between 300,000 to 400,000 horses in the state. There are too few vets who actually perform teeth floating -- Renegar himself was cited by the website of the Daily Oklahoman as saying that 256 vets in Oklahoma perform equine dentistry.

This business has been done by laymen for many years. I remember growing up on a farm in south central Texas over 50 years ago, and my father would have a non-veterinarian horseman come over to work on his horses' teeth. None was ever injured in the process.

Apparently, Knocke isn't the only person who thinks so. Earlier this year, almost exactly a year after Knocke's story, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill allowing horse teeth floaters to perform the procedure without a veterinary license, overturning the previous law, but not without a lot of gnashing of teeth (thank you...thank you very much).

Dolan Media reported in early 2010 that opponents of the new law were running ads claiming "Oklahoma would become the first state to legalize possession of drugs that could be used for abortions and date rapes should the teeth floaters' bill become law." even going so far as to run the quote, "Don't let the drugs to treat her horse be the drugs used to rape her," in the ad.

The bill was signed into law this past May.

We wonder if the battle will get as heated in Texas. With Libertarians throwing around words like "fiefdom" and the group representing Texas vets claiming non-veterinarians using the term "dentist" to describe themselves is "unethical" because they "view equine dentistry in an overly simplistic manner that is detrimental to the health and welfare of the horses they work on," I'd say we're heading toward the war path.

All Hair Balls can say is, saddle up, boys, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

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