Gnashing teeth: Equine dentists, veterinarians joust over House Bill 3202

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 04-Mar-2010

Two equine dentistry bills circulating in the Oklahoma legislature are raising some controversy. House Bill 3202 sponsored by Rep. Don Armes, a Republican from Faxon and Senate Bill 1999, sponsored by Armes and Sen. Mike Schultz, an Altus Republican, have notable support, yet have garnered some vocal and well-organized opposition. H.B. 3202 is likely to be considered in the state House of Representatives today (Thursday, March 4). 

Equine dentists support the bills, saying they would help protect the private property rights of horse owners around the state. Allies of the equine dentists include the Institute of Justice, a Washington, D.C. civil liberties lobbying firm.

Critics have organized opposition. Some veterinarians and physicians have warned that passage would endanger horses and potentially open the doors for easier public access to dangerous horse tranquilizers and drugs, including some that can used for abortion and “date rape” on humans.

In Oklahoma, unlicensed “teeth floating” has been illegal for almost 20 years. Since 1990, it has been a misdemeanor for someone without a veterinary license to prescribe or administer any veterinary drugs or perform animal dentistry. The law allow owners of farm animals to administer drugs under certain circumstances, but prescriptions must be written by a licensed “vet,” after first establishing a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Following 2008 legislation that made unlicensed teeth floating a felony due to its use of narcotics and a high-profile arrest, Armes began pushing for legalization of equine “teeth floating.” A 2009 bill lessened the penalty for practicing equine dentistry without a license and returned the crime to a misdemeanor. The new legislation moves to legalize it altogether.