Equine Massage Therapists can Now Practice in Tennessee

Equine massage therapists can now lawfully practice in Tennessee under new legislation passed in April.

Earlier this year, horse owner Laurie Wheeler was performing equine message therapy on her own animal when she began offering therapy to others’ horses for free. After receiving requests from additional owners to massage their horses, Wheeler applied to become a licensed massage therapist in Tennessee. Later, however, the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners learned of the case and notified Wheeler that she’d violated Tennessee’s equine message therapist regulations and could face charges.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a group that promotes the review of potentially restrictive licensing rules and regulations in in that state, subsequently represented Wheeler and colleague Martha Stowe in litigation alleging that the Veterinary Medical Examiners rule was preventing them from earning a living.

The case was settled after the Tennessee House and Senate unanimously passed an amendment to a bill requiring the state's health commissioner to report factors that affect the state's health status rankings. The amendment specifies that the practice of veterinary medicine does not include massage therapy to animals with the intention of positively affecting the animal’s health and well-being.

The amendment will expire on July 1, 2018.

Hannah Cox, outreach coordinator for the Beacon Center, said the legislation is a temporary fix.

“The women and the Veterinary Board got together and agreed that there needed to be a permanent solution to the situation, but in the meantime the women needed a way to make a living performing equine massage,” she said. “So the amendment was passed and within the next 18 months the veterinary board and the women will get together to create a permanent solution.”

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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