Brooke Gray has never had a client complain about her work, and several licensed veterinarians in Missouri have been so impressed with her abilities that they refer clients to her and they even entrust their own horses to Gray’s care. Still, because one licensed veterinarian wanted to eliminate competition from people like Gray, the government is now attempting to make Gray the first non-veterinarian animal husbandry worker in Missouri to be stripped of her right to earn a living.
At 9 a.m. Central Monday, Gray will be represented by attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri as she fights for the right to practice her profession in a courtroom inside the Clinton County (Mo.) Courthouse in Plattsburg.
What does Gray do that makes her such a threat to veterinarians? She floats horse teeth. If you’re not familiar with that specialty, watch the video below, and I think you’ll understand.
Throughout Missouri history, farmers and ranchers who needed help with branding cattle, castrating hogs or shoeing horses, they could call upon a neighbor or a skilled temporary worker, according to a Freedom Center news release. Even after the state of Missouri began regulating the practice of veterinary medicine in the early 1900s, no one ever thought the law would prevent non-veterinarians from providing this state’s animal owners with basic animal husbandry services. Today, things have changed.
Missouri’s livestock industry currently depends on as many as 10,000 non-veterinarian workers who help service this state’s 3.9 million cattle, 2.9 million hogs, 81,000 sheep and 281,000 horses – to say nothing of chickens, turkeys, and goats, according to Roland, but the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board has decided that animal owners should no longer be permitted to have neighbors or skilled non-veterinarians assist with their herds.
This case is expected to be decided Tuesday. Stay tuned for details of how it turns out.
UPDATE 9/28/11 at 9:50 p.m. Central: Hurry up and wait.
UPDATE 1/05/12 at 4:45 p.m. Central: Below is the text of some not-so-good news in the form of a news release issued today by the folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri:
Court: Missouri Farmers Must Hire Vets for Basic Animal Care
Hired Hands May Be Prosecuted, If Paid
The Clinton County Circuit Court in Plattsburg, Missouri, has ruled that it can and will enforce a state law that forbids any non-veterinarian to accept payment for providing basic animal husbandry services. The judgment allows Brooke Gray, a young woman with eight years’ training and experience at removing sharp enamel points from horses’ teeth, to continue assisting Missouri’s animal owners—but if she gets paid for her efforts, she will be fined and possibly sent to jail. The Freedom Center of Missouri, which represents Gray, had argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect a citizen’s right to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services.
“I just hope that people understand that this case is not just about me,” Gray explained. “The law makes it a criminal offense for a non-veterinarian to get paid for any act that changes an animal’s physical or mental condition. The Board has already determined that this applies to animal massage, castration and routine vaccinations, and the Board’s executive director even testified that the law could eventually be applied to pet grooming!”
“Missouri is home to thousands of workers who have for decades safely and affordably helped farmers and ranchers manage their livestock,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center. “Their services are essential to this state’s animal agriculture industry. But in the past few years the state Veterinary Medical Board has been threatening to prosecute these workers simply because animal owners are paying them. I’m afraid that Brooke’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Gray has never injured an animal and received high praise from the very animal owners the government relied upon to make its case against her, yet the Veterinary Medical Board filed suit against Gray in September 2010, in response to a complaint submitted by a veterinarian in nearby Clay County who sometimes works on horses’ teeth. That same veterinarian, who has filed similar complaints against several other animal husbandry workers, admitted at trial that he has injured more than one horse in his own efforts to work on their teeth. Two other veterinarians testified in support of Gray, stating that they have been so impressed with her skill that they do not hesitate to recommend her to their own clients; one of those veterinarians has even entrusted Gray with assisting the vet’s own horse. Several witnesses also testified that due to the very limited numbers of large animal veterinarians, requiring animal owners to hire veterinarians for simple tasks, such as branding or castrating cattle or shoeing horses, would greatly increase the costs of animal ownership and could actually reduce the level of care that animals receive.
Roland said that Gray and the Freedom Center intend to appeal the court’s ruling.
“The Missouri Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to enjoy the gains of their own industry,” Roland said. “Exactly one hundred years ago the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that this means that the government cannot deny someone the right to be paid for performing work that would otherwise be perfectly legal. Especially when so many Missourians are already struggling to find jobs, we believe that this common-sense principle still applies and that the higher courts will uphold Brooke’s constitutional right to earn a living.”
UPDATE 2/20/2013 at 8:03 a.m. Central: Brooke Gray lost her first appeal.
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