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.