Oklahoma Equine Dentist Faces Felony Charges

Professional rodeo rider Bobby Griswold is facing felony charges in Oklahoma for practicing equine dentistry without a veterinary medical license. Griswold is not a veterinarian, but he graduated from an equine dental school. He was arrested March 4 in Oklahoma City by an Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners investigator and Oklahoma City Police. The charge carries penalties of between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines, one to four years' imprisonment, or both. He is free on bond, and no court date has been set.

Griswold is the first person charged under a 2008 law that amended Oklahoma's Veterinary Practice Act to allow felony charges against equine dentists who do not hold a veterinary license.

Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners Executive Director Cathy Kirkpatrick said the arrest took place after Griswold failed to respond to numerous cease and desist warnings the board issued in response to complaints about his activities.

"We're complaint-driven," Kirkpatrick said. "When there's no response to warnings, we have to do something."

Griswold was unavailable for comment.

Veterinary licensing boards in most states view dentistry as a branch of veterinary medicine, and they regulate who performs dental services on animals. Some completely prohibit nonveterinarians from practicing equine dentistry. Others allow them to perform dental procedures under veterinary supervision.

And, as a matter of policy, both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) maintain that their diagnostic, treatment, and pharmacological training uniquely qualify veterinarians to perform dental procedures on horses.

"AAEP's position is that equine dentistry is the practice of equine medicine, and it should be performed by a veterinarian," said AAEP Director of Industry Relations Keith Kleine.

But not all veterinarians agree that equine dentistry should be left solely to graduates of veterinary school.

Tom Allen, DVM, who's also certified through the International Association of Equine Dentistry, argues that nonveterinarians who complete equine dental school programs master specific skills some veterinary school graduates never acquire."Graduates of equine dentistry schools put in hundreds of hours studying dental technique," he said. "Veterinarians are not required to demonstrate any proficiency in equine dentistry in order to be licensed."

While the debate continues, State Sen. Charles Key promises new legislation that would allow nonveterinary equine dentists to lawfully practice in Oklahoma."Under the current law, horse owners don't have the option to use these services," Key said. "I don't think we're gaining anything by punishing nonveterinary equine dentists."

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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