Missouri woman goes on trial over equine tooth filing

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 3:20 p.m. CDT

PLATTSBURG — The trial of a Missouri woman accused of practicing veterinary medicine without a license could have widespread implications for animal owners and the people they hire for specialized care.

At issue is Brooke Gray's business of smoothing or "floating" sharp teeth that can cut the insides of horses' mouths.

The Missouri Veterinary Medical Board claims in a civil lawsuit that Gray's business, B&B Equine Dentistry, violates a Missouri law that defines dentistry — and floating — as veterinary medicine. But the Holt woman said floating is basic animal husbandry and shouldn't be considered a licensed procedure.

A court worker confirmed Gray's trial started Monday in Clinton County. It is expected to wrap up Tuesday.

Gray is being represented by Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri, a group that advocates for limited government.

Roland said he hopes to prove to the judge that people with specialized training, but who aren't veterinarians, have safely practiced floating for hundreds of years.

"We're saying, sure, the government can regulate the practice of veterinary medicine, but can it really make you get a full veterinary medicine license for something as simple as floating teeth?" Roland told The St. Joseph News-Press.

Gray has been floating teeth for eight years after training at The Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho and completing a five-month apprenticeship in Colorado.

"This is my livelihood," she said. "I love my job. Not everyone can say that they love their job, and they're trying to take that away from me."

Travis Ford, spokesman for the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board, said the board is required to enforce state laws and routinely warns people that they will face action in civil court if they don't stop performing procedures that require a veterinary license.

"For the board to try to stop unlicensed practice is not new, it's just unusual in that most folks stop when they are asked to," Ford said.

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