In Texas, a victory for freedom and horses

Clark Neily Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
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In a resounding victory for economic liberty, horse teeth floaters are back at work in the Lone Star State after beating back a four-year campaign by state-licensed veterinarians and the state vet board to put them out of business.

Horses’ teeth grow throughout their lifetimes and must be filed down (or “floated”) occasionally to maintain proper length and alignment. Teeth floaters tend to be far more proficient at working with horses’ teeth than veterinarians, who typically receive little or no training in equine dentistry. Many state-licensed veterinarians resent the competition from non-veterinarian teeth floaters, and have enlisted the government in a campaign to put them out of business.

That is exactly what happened in Texas, where the state vet board had long recognized and approved teeth floating by laypersons. But when the head of the Texas veterinary association complained, the vet board suddenly changed its position and began sending cease-and-desist letters to non-veterinarian teeth floaters, ordering them to shut down their thriving businesses.

But Americans have a constitutional right to earn a living in the occupation of their choice free from arbitrary, irrational or — as in this case — blatantly anti-competitive government restrictions. There is also a requirement in Texas that state agencies follow certain steps when changing their enforcement policies, all of which the vet board ignored in going after teeth floaters.

In August, I wrote about the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners’ war on horse owners and teeth floaters. On Tuesday, a state trial judge in Austin struck down the vet board’s attempt to outlaw non-veterinarian teeth floating and ordered the board to back off. As a result, teeth floaters are back on the job in Texas, which is good for them, good for horses, and good for economic liberty in America.

Clark Neily is a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, which represented a group of horse owners and horse teeth floaters challenging the vet board’s anti-competitive regulation of teeth floaters.