Veterinary Board Rule Change Threatens Fines and Jail for ‘Unlicensed Horse Massage’

Tennessee Star

The Beacon Center Legal Foundation announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The Vet Board recently defined “animal massage” as a form of veterinary medicine, meaning that merely rubbing horses now requires a veterinarian license.

The Beacon Center – a nonpartisan, independent organization dedicated to developing and supporting free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee  – believes this law is unconstitutional and has filed suit on behalf of Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler of Franklin, as both of their careers and livelihoods depend on horse massage therapy. Continuing to practice horse massage therapy subjected them to fines and even potential jail time.

Tennessee StarThe Beacon Center warned the Vet Board in a letter of its intention to sue, should the Board keep the bizarre rule change. The two weeks passed, the Vet Board kept the licensure requirement, and the Center, in fact, filed suit.

This is the third lawsuit the Center has filed, winning its first lawsuit against the city of Nashville for its unconstitutional homesharing regulations.

The group also looks likely to get a second legal victory after its challenge of a Haslam Administration expansion of a similar licensing requirement for shampooing. A repeal of that rule is in the works.

Beacon Center Litigation Director Braden Boucek said, “We will be putting our energy and resources into making sure that the government restores Laurie and Martha’s right to earn an honest living. Both the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee Constitution protect the right to earn a living, meaning individuals have a right to pursue a chosen business or profession free from arbitrary or excessive government interference.

“This regulation clearly runs afoul of that right. The Vet Board is now requiring a license to rub a horse. It is time we stop criminalizing compassion. What’s next, a license to pet your dog or feed your cat?”

Laurie Wheeler, the plaintiff in this case, noted, “We are extremely disappointed and disheartened that the Vet Board has chosen to stand by its ill-conceived and illegal regulation on horse massage despite the outstanding amount of evidence we presented showing that the rule was unconstitutional and unnecessary.”

Martha Stowe, the other plaintiff in the case said, “Over the past two weeks, both Laurie and I have received a tremendous outpouring of support at both the local and national level, and we are certain that we will prevail in court. We are very thankful for the Beacon Center for protecting our rights.”

Watch the Beacon Center’s recently released full video on Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler here:

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