The root of the debate
Dr. Rakestraw, part of the TVMA taskforce to address dentistry, has been part of the TVMA's equine practice committee for
Two years ago, legislation was introduced in the agriculture/livestock committee by Rep. Sid Miller. The legislation supported
unsupervised unregulated non-veterinarians trying to make dentistry a husbandry act, which is the same as dehorning cattle.
The goal was to try to throw dentistry out of the practice act.
"It's been a heated issue for a while. But it took a while for the state board to act. In 2007, the board finally sent out
cease-and-desist letters. And with those came pushback," Rakestraw says.
During the next legislative session TVMA will back legislation urging the licensure of "equine dental technicians." The legislation
would ensure a minimum amount of education for equine dental technicians, so they can practice legally while shielding the
public and their horses from those who lack such training.
"Without regulatory oversight and recourse, consumers lack protection from unscrupulous, negligent or unskilled non-veterinarians.
If a veterinarian makes a mistake, they must answer to the TBVME and defend their license. But unsupervised, unregulated,
non-veterinarians lack minimum enforceable standards and, therefore, are not held to the same level of professionalism or
accountability," Choate explains.
How lay teeth floaters fit into the oral care of horses is the question, according to Ben Buchanan, a recent vice chair of
the TVMA equine practice committee, who was asked to participate on a TVMA-sponsored Task Force. "What is not a question is
that only veterinarians should be sedating horses, prescribing medication and diagnosing diseases," he says.
Buchanan sees the issue being resolved in Texas through the legislative process either through compromise or a modification
of the practice act. In the courts, a judge who does not really understand horse welfare will decide the issue based on what
is written in the law, how it should be enforced and how the supervising board is organized, he adds.
"We hope that legislation will adequately define dentistry, provide for regulation and oversight of non-veterinary professionals
to legally work with veterinarians and provide for enforcement of the existing laws," Buchanan says.
Common sense will prevail, according to Golla, who believes it is vital that the public is educated on "the real issues" –
animal welfare, protection of the public, controlled substance use and protection of laws in place that define the practice
of veterinary medicine.