Farriery is Veterinary Medicine in Florida

On March 2, the Florida Board of Veterinary Practice (FBVP) unanimously voted that their interpretation of the state's practice act (which governs animal care and what is construed as veterinary medicine) said acupressure, aromatherapy, animal communication, farriery, flower essence therapy, homeopathy, light therapy, magnet therapy, and nutritional counseling are all practices limited to Florida licensed veterinarians.

However, after the meeting, the board chairman said that the group should have been more specific about farriery.

The FBVP dedicated a portion of its general business meeting to assist the Florida Alliance for Animal Owners Rights (FAAOR) with questions regarding the practice of veterinary medicine in the state. FAAOR is seeking to increase the animal owner's options in seeking care from persons other than licensed veterinarians. They gave the board a list of 10 practices on which to rule.

According to Robert O'Neil, DVM, FBVP chairman and a racetrack practitioner in South Florida, the state's statute was re-read, and the governor-appointed board--which consists of five veterinarians and two non-veterinarians--voted on its interpretation, which was unanimous that all 10 were technically the practice of veterinary medicine.

Including farriery on the list came as a surprise to the farrier community; the Florida State Farriers Association and American Farrier's Association were not notified by FAAOR that their profession would be the subject of a decision or even that farriery was on such a list. They were not invited to attend or provide input.

"We should have been more specific about farriery," O'Neil admitted. "Shoeing a horse is not the practice of veterinary medicine, but prescribing a heart-bar shoe for a severe problem might be."

FAAOR is a 75-member non-profit organization seeking to change the legal status of animal care in the state of Florida. Organizer Nancy Stephens commented that, in the past 10 years, 140 non-veterinarians in Florida have had complaints filed against them for practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Complaints might be followed by "cease and desist" orders; the final step in the enforcement process is prosecution as a third-degree felony.

The inclusion of farriery quickly put the board's decision in the headlines and initiated a fast-moving rumor mill that spawned 25 pages of vehement anti-veterinarian comments on one Internet horse owner forum within a few days of the publication of a brief press release on the FAAOR decision.

"We are very concerned about the welfare of the horse," O'Neil stated. "In the eyes of the law, the veterinarian is responsible for the health of the horse, whatever the nature of treatment.

"We are not trying to take farriers' jobs," he continued emphatically. "And I foresee no changes in the way that business is conducted in Florida at this point in time. We are not here to try to regulate farriers, and none of the blacksmiths here at the track have stoned me yet."

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at www.hoofcare.com. Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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