Animal husbandry may be illegal in Missouri
December 01, 2010
In a statement that casts a shadow over this state's entire livestock industry, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board (MVMB) has taken the position that the state's veterinary practice laws apply to a whole range of basic animal husbandry services. They include horseshoeing, branding, de-horning, tail docking, castrating, artificially inseminating, and birthing livestock. Although thus far the MVMB has only targeted the practice of horse teeth floating (...refer to Missouri Veterinary Medical Board v. Brooke Gray and B&B Equine Dentistry, case number 10CN-CV00842.), it has claimed the "clear" statutory authority to prohibit non-veterinarians from providing these other services.

The regulatory board's position poses a threat to thousands of Missourians who earn money hiring themselves out to work with livestock on farms and ranches across the state. According to the MVMB, every hired hand who works with animals is violating the law and it can haul them into court whenever it chooses.

What this means is that if these practices do indeed fall within the state's definition of "veterinary medicine," then a non-licensed veterinarian accepting any form of compensation for assisting with these practices is subject to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison for each animal with which he or she works. While Governor Nixon recently acknowledged Missouri's shortage of large animal veterinarians, the regulatory board's view is that the law requires the state's livestock owners hire a licensed vet to provide these animal husbandry services or hope that anyone else does the work for free.

Simply put, the MVMB is threatening to fundamentally alter the traditional way of managing livestock. The U.S and Missouri Constitutions protect citizens' right to earn an honest living in these time-honored professions, and we're going to fight to see that right vindicated.

Commentary by Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri in St. Louis

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