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New law on equine dentistry takes teeth out of Oklahoma battle

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: April 17, 2010
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Horse owners later this year will have the freedom to choose who can work on their horses’ teeth and equine dentists will be able to practice in the state without fear of facing a criminal charge.

Gov. Brad Henry on Friday signed a bill that allows equine dentists — commonly called horse teeth floaters — to practice without being arrested.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau backed House Bill 3202 while most veterinarians opposed it.

The state’s veterinary board has said 353 of 1,807 veterinarians practice equine dentistry in Oklahoma. It’s estimated there are about 30 equine dentists in the state.

Rep. Don Armes, author of HB 3202, said the measure ensures equine dentists can work in the state.

"I don’t think the government owes anybody a living, but I think it owes everybody a chance,” said Armes, R-Faxon. "This gives some good people a chance to work. If you’re proficient in your craft, whatever that is, that you’ll make a living.”

Concerns survive
Rep. Lee Denney, a veterinarian who voted against the measure, said she was disappointed the governor signed the bill. She said the measure also exempts animal husbandry practices from being a veterinary practice.

Oklahomans will be vulnerable to "people illegally practicing veterinary medicine,” said Denney, R-Cushing.

"I’m also worried that this will allow prescription drugs more of an opportunity to get in the hands of people that are unauthorized to use them,” she said.

Denney said the bill could jeopardize the future of veterinarians who work on livestock in the state.

"Veterinarians protect our food supply, and when we don’t protect their scope of practice, we’re not going to have large animal veterinarians in this state,” she said.

Armes said the bill is a victory for horse owners because it gives them the freedom to decide how to treat their horses.

"A horse is property, it’s an animal,” Armes said.