Equine Dentistry Bill Passes in Texas Legislature

Jun 06, 2011, 12:45 ET from Texas Veterinary Medical Association

AUSTIN, Texas, June 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As of May 30, the battle over who can perform dental work on Texas horses, veterinarians or non-veterinarian tooth floaters, was resolved when the Texas Legislature moved to professionalize the practice of non-veterinary equine dentistry by passing House Bill 414. This bill defines and establishes training and educational requirements so that persons who are not veterinarians may legally perform certain aspects of equine dentistry under the supervision of a veterinarian as a licensed "equine dental provider" or EDP.

Veterinarians know that equine dentistry is much more than floating teeth—or filing down the sharp points in a horse's mouth that may cause injury or difficulty chewing. Equine dentistry is a key part of comprehensive equine health care, which includes floating and an evaluation of a horse's entire mouth (i.e., teeth, gums, jaw and tongue) for signs of disease as well as a horse's entire body. In aging horses, improperly cared-for teeth can cause weight loss, malnutrition and even death.

In most cases, equine dentistry also requires the use of potentially dangerous sedative or tranquilizing drugs, which non-veterinarians cannot legally administer to another person's animals. It is legal for Doctors of Veterinary Medicine to use and prescribe drugs because they are licensed by the state and federal government and understand the pharmacology and physiology necessary to properly administer, monitor and manage the drugs. They also know how to reverse unexpected negative reactions to drugs such as seizures and when it is necessary to use antibiotics or other agents to protect the horse's health and prevent spread of disease. This legislation will not change the current laws related to prescription drugs.

Previously, there was almost no recourse for a consumer whose horse had been damaged by a non-veterinarian tooth floater, but HB 414 provides protection for horse owners and their animals. For instance, EDPs will be accountable to the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, when before the unlicensed individual lacked minimum practice standards and were not required to meet any basic level of professionalism or accountability. Additionally, no longer will individuals be allowed to mislead the public by using the unearned medical title "equine dentist."

An EDP will work under the general supervision of a veterinarian. Individuals who already posses the necessary skills to perform this work will be grandfathered in for a certain amount of time, but in the future, EDPs will be required to meet certain proficiency requirements in order to become licensees. HB 414 also provides horse owners the freedom to choose whom they want to work on their horses, whether they choose an independent contractor who is an EDP or a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

One thing is for certain: because of this legislation, Texas horses and their owners will be afforded a level of protection unavailable in the past.

A full copy of HB 414 is available here.

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SOURCE Texas Veterinary Medical Association