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.