Animal Husbandry on Trial
On Monday, September 26, Brooke Gray will go on trial because the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board says it is illegal for non-veterinarians to provide basic animal husbandry services for animal owners. This determination could completely disrupt the way animal agriculture is done in the state of Missouri, as farmers and ranchers have always been able to seek help from neighbors or hired hands when they needed help with basic tasks. But, as these cease-and-desist letters from the Veterinary Medical Board demonstrate, all that could be coming to an end:
Missouri is currently home to 10 million chickens; 8 million turkeys; 4 million cattle; 3 million hogs; 281,000 horses; 92,000 goats and 81,000 sheep, many of which are at least partially cared for by the state’s non-veterinarian livestock workers. As far as horses are concerned, the federal government’s statistics show that a great many horse owners rely on non-veterinarians as sources of health care information and services such as corrective horseshoeing and routine dentistry. That same study found that “as the size of [horse management] operation increased, the percentage of operations where an equine dentist (nonveterinarian) provided primary dental care increased,” and that horseracing facilities – those with the greatest financial stake in their horses’ health and performance – were more likely to use nonveterinarian equine dentists than they were to use licensed vets.
The Board’s Executive Director testified at her deposition that the law may make an entire range of services illegal – even trimming an animal’s nails or cutting its fur!
A judicial decision to uphold the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board’s interpretation of this law would put at risk thousands of agricultural jobs. It would make it exponentially more expensive for livestock owners to manage their herds because they would have to hire licensed veterinarians to do the work – assuming they could even find a vet available to do it. These outcomes could be devastating for Missouri’s agricultural community – the courts must rule that the government may not constitutionally enforce this law.
5 thoughts on “Animal Husbandry on Trial”
This is ridiculous and a complete infringement upon our individual rights. The day that farmers and ranchers have to rely on a vet to provide basic services and herd work is the day America is no longer a free country. If vets in Missouri are so hard up for work perhaps they should consider relocating to another state, many are short handed in regards to large animal practices.
Missouri Code Section 340.216 should be renamed the Missouri Veterinarians Full Employment Act or perhaps the Veterinarians No Competition Act.
The net effect is to limit the supply of people who can perform such services on farm animals. If you limits the supply and demand is unchanged, prices rise. Who benefits, veterinarians.
I know of a horse dentist in PA that was brought up on charges of practicing veterinary medicine without a license. It took him years to finally win his case because he testified that he never personally administered any sedatives, and that his work on a horse’s teeth was similar to a farrier’s work. Both use a rasp and nippers on part of a horse’s body and both practice routine and therapeutic care. Until vets are willing to do all farrier work, then they have no valid reason to stop all unlicensed horse dentistry.
It doesn’t even make sense for vets to want to control horse dentistry. Most vets I know don’t want to come in a do a barn full of horses in the way it should be done. They cheat and use power tools that do a terrible job on teeth.
My feeling as a horse owner is that I should be allowed to hire anyone I want to work with my horse provided it isn’t cruel or inhumane treatment.
That trial date was in 2011. What was the final judgment?
The trial court ruled that we had put on “solid evidence” showing that veterinarians may not all be prepared to provide this kind of service and that prohibiting non-vets from doing this work might result in horses receiving less treatment (or being abandoned), but the judge said it was not the role of the courts to second-guess the legislature. We’re currently appealing the case to Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals. Several of the judges in that district grew up in rural areas, so we are hopeful they will grasp just how absurd this law is. We expect to argue the case this fall – probably around October or November.