Oklahoma Equine Dentistry Bill Remains Controversial

Oklahomans who are not veterinarians will soon be able to float horses' teeth without risking felony charges, now that Gov. Brad Henry signed SB 452 into law on Thursday.

SB 452 strips an amendment to the state's Veterinary Practice Act of a 2008, which called for felony penalties against individuals without a veterinary license who float or extract horses' teeth. Under the new law--which becomes effective 90 days after receiving the governor's signature--so-called lay teeth floaters might face misdemeanor charges.

Supporters say Henry's signature represents a victory for horse owners who rely on teeth floaters because their veterinarians do not provide equine dental services.

"A lot of veterinarians won't float horses' teeth. The new law puts the right of choice back in the hands of horse owners," said Eyde Lucas, founder of the Coalition for Oklahoma Teeth Floaters, a group that advocated for the bill's passage.

But bill opponent Rep. Brian Renegar, DVM, believes owners risk horses' lives when they allow teeth floaters to administer sedatives and perform dental procedures without veterinarian oversight. "It will allow lay teeth floaters to continue to use illegal drugs on horses with no oversight and people will just have to suffer with the results," he said.

Meanwhile, Lee McGrath, spokesman for the Institute for Justice, a specialty law firm that advocates for entrepreneurs' rights believes passage of SB 452 will influence similar legislation elsewhere.

"I suspect legislators in other states will follow Oklahoma's lead. It's precedent-setting," McGrath said.

SB 452 was introduced in April after professional rodeo rider Bobby Griswold was charged with felony practice of veterinary medicine without a license (read more). The case is still pending.

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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