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US horse dentist fights to practise

August 18, 2006

A horse dentist in the US is fighting the justice system to be able to practise in his field.

The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine has put Chris Johnson out of business by demanding that he either become a licensed veterinarian or pass an exam, which is not on offer in Minnesota.

Lee McGrath, executive director of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter, a public interest law firm, said: "Minnesota's laws irrationally classify horse teeth floating as the practice of veterinary medicine - even though veterinary schools don't teach floating - and subject Chris to fines and even jail time for peacefully practicing his craft."

Johnson is described as a third-generation horse teeth floater. "Almost all students graduate from veterinary school without ever looking inside of a horse's mouth," said Johnson.

"Floating a horse's teeth requires some hands-on training and common sense around large animals, but not a $100,000 education over four years that never even teaches this trade."

The Board issued a cease-and-desist order to the Johnson family in 2004 instructing them to stop floating teeth or face up to $3000 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 then mounted a legislative effort to exempt horse teeth floaters from veterinary licensing laws - similar to the exemption for those who make a living dehorning cattle and castrating bulls. The Board opposed this legislation, and as a result, Minnesota's new law restricts horse teeth floating to (1) licensed veterinarians, (2) those with more than 10 years of experience, and (3) those with a certificate for passing an exam given by the International Association of Equine Dentistry (IAED) based near Dallas.

To qualify to take the IAED's test, a student must float the teeth of 250 horses under the supervision of an existing IAED member. There no IAED members in Minnesota.



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