When H.B. 1055 was prefiled in the Arkansas state legislature Dec. 15, 2010, to amend the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Practice Act concerning large animal practice, the Arkansas VMA saw it had a potential fight on its hands . The bill was introduced by state Rep. Garry Smith, who is a farrier.
The bill's language defined equine tooth floating not as a part of equine dentistry but as an act of animal husbandry, along with branding, castrating, dehorning, deworming, ear notching, tail docking, farriery, massage, pregnancy checking, artificially inseminating, vaccinating, and collecting, preparing, and freezing semen.
The bill contained a provision to allow any practitioner of acupuncture, chiropractic, or veterinary dentistry to perform these procedures on farm animals under the immediate supervision of a veterinarian licensed in Arkansas, excluding the administration of sedatives.
This bill went before the state agriculture committee Jan. 19. Through a combined effort of the Arkansas VMA membership, its lobbyists, and the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Examining Board, the bill was defeated in committee by a vote of 11-7.
During testimony before the committee, Dr. Lyndon Tate, a member of the board of examiners, explained the purpose of the practice act.
Dr. David M. Blount, immediate past president of the Arkansas VMA, said, "There was a misconception among some of the legislators that the practice act is in place to protect the veterinarian and to guard their services for their right to profit from them.
We clearly established that the practice act is the law set forth through the legislature to safeguard animal welfare by setting the standards for proper veterinary medical care—that it is, in fact, the people's practice act to protect the public from substandard veterinary care and to provide the standards for proper animal medical care and welfare."
Dr. Paul Turchi, an equine veterinarian who performs dentistry, then explained why equine tooth floating is, indeed, an act of veterinary dentistry, not a basic act of animal husbandry, and requires regulation.
Dr. Blount said the Arkansas VMA is now having legislation drafted that would request an interim study to evaluate the practice act pertaining to large animal medicine. The bill already has two sponsors, and several others have indicated interest.
"The study will also examine the large animal veterinarian shortage, the need for large animal technician services, large animal health care exemptions, and the impact that exemptions and lay health care have on animal health care," Dr. Blount said. "We will bring to the table those groups and individuals who can provide the best ideas in solving these issues."
So far, that group comprises members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association, public health officials, and large animal veterinarians.
This study would be done over the course of the next two years in preparation for any amendments to the practice act in the 2013 biennial legislative session.