Missouri Court Denies Lay Equine Dentist's Appeal

A Missouri non-veterinarian equine dentist has lost her bid to overturn a lower court's decision prohibiting her from performing tooth floating services for pay.

"Floating" is the filing or cutting of long points on a horse's teeth. Missouri state law forbids non-veterinarians from performing the procedure and forbids non-veterinarians from accepting payment for providing basic animal husbandry services. In 2010, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Clinton County, Mo., veterinarian asking the court to prevent non-veterinarian tooth floater Brooke Gray from floating horse's teeth on a fee-for-service basis on grounds that Gray was not a licensed veterinarian. The Freedom Center of Missouri represented Gray in the case. Gray's attorney and Freedom Center Director of Litigation Dave Roland argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect citizens' rights to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services. In Dec. 21, 2011, a Clinton County, Mo., Circuit Court judge granted the injunction prohibiting Gray from performing for compensation equine tooth floating or any other act considered veterinary dentistry under state law. Roland subsequently appealed the lower court's decision.

On Feb. 13, the Missouri Appellate Court upheld the Clinton County Court's decision. In its opinion the appellate panel found that the State can constitutionally prohibit Gray from receiving gains from her animal husbandry services on grounds that the State has "a legitimate interest in establishing a high level of competence for individuals who practice veterinary medicine," and Gray "has not met the proper statutory requirements for such practice."

The panel also found that constitutional due process does not prevent the state from preventing Gray from receiving payment for floating horses' teeth because as a non-veterinarian, Gray does not meet proper statutory requirements to practice the procedure.

No one from the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board was available for comment on the court's finding.

Roland said that the court ruling effectively strips Gray of her rights under the Missouri Constitution.

"The appellate court acknowledged that Gray (or anyone else) could lawfully do the (tooth floating or other animal husbandry) work, but said that people only have the right to get paid for that lawful work if the government says so," Roland said. "That is how courts read constitutional rights out of existence."

The Appellate Court's finding might not be the last word on Gray's case. Roland said he would ask the appellate court reconsider its ruling.

"If they refuse to do so, we will take the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court," he said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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