Lay Equine Dentist Files Veterinary Practice Act Lawsuit in Minnesota

The Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter has announced in a press release that it is challenging the state's veterinary licensing process on behalf of a lay (non-veterinarian) equine dentist who is referred to as a "teeth floater." Chris Johnson, the lay dentist, filed suit Aug. 16 in Minnesota's First Judicial District in Glencoe, Minn. (55 miles west of Minneapolis), to defend his right to practice the trade.

The Institute reports that the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine "has put him (Johnson) out of business by demanding that he either become a licensed veterinarian...or pass an exam that has never been offered in Minnesota," referring to the International Association of Equine Dentistry (IAED) test. The Board lobbied in 2005 against legislation that would have opened the market to competition from providers such as Johnson.

"The occupation of a horse teeth floater offers a lifetime of opportunity for rural Minnesotans who, like Chris Johnson, love horses," said Lee McGrath, executive director of the Institute, which is a public interest law firm that reports it has already scored major successes by striking down government-imposed barriers to entrepreneurship. "But Minnesota's laws irrationally classify horse teeth floating as the practice of veterinary medicine...and subject Chris to fines and even jail time for peacefully practicing his craft."

The Institute reports that in 2004, Minnesota's Board of Veterinary Medicine issued a cease-and-desist order to the Johnson family instructing them to stop floating teeth or face up to $3,000 in fines and one year in prison for practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Since November 2004, Johnson has worked in a job unrelated to horses.

The Johnsons and their customers responded by mounting a legislative effort to exempt horse teeth floaters from veterinary licensing laws. The Board opposed this legislation, and Minnesota's new law restricts horse teeth floating to licensed veterinarians, those with more than 10 years of experience, and those with a certificate for passing an exam given by the IAED based near Dallas, Texas.

According to the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter, to qualify to take the IAED test, you must float the teeth of 250 horses under the supervision of an existing IAED member. "Not only are there no IAED members in Minnesota, it is illegal to float without a license," reported the release. "So, to abide by the law in Minnesota, you must break it--a Catch-22 for people like Johnson."

The goal of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter is to win Johnson's case and to "roll back the unconstitutional use of government power," said McGrath in the release.

The Horse reminds readers that lawsuits only give one side of the story. The magazine is contacting the other side for comment.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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