Riding Into Court On Our High Horse


March 9, 2017 10:52AM

Out of options, Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler were forced to go to court today to ask to continue supporting their families by doing a job they love–caring for horses with the safe and harmless practice of massage therapy.

The vet board recently enacted a regulation (meaning this was not legislation voted on by your elected representatives) that defined animal massage as the practice of veterinary medicine. Worse, the board says that rubbing a horse without a license is a crime, effectively criminalizing compassion. Laurie and Martha’s choices are: go to vet school or to work for a vet, go to jail, or quit their jobs. You can read more about their story here.

Martha and Laurie are not vets and never claimed to be. They are highly trained in animal massage, something that cannot be said for vets who are not taught the practice in veterinary school. They work with vets who see their care as complementing their own.

The women cannot go to vet school. There are only thirty (30) vet schools in the entire country, and it is highly competitive to get in. One school in Tennessee charges nearly $70,000 for one year of its four (4) year program. Both women have families. They cannot afford either the time or cost to go to vet school.

What’s worse, vet schools are not even required to teach animal massage. So they would have to impoverish their families and take four (4) years off to go to school to not be taught something they already know how to do, and that’s assuming they could get in. Is this not the height of irrationality?

A lawsuit was not their first choice, just the only one left. After being told that they were acting like vets, they asked to see any complaints but were told the files were confidential. They requested to work with the vet board to change the law but were told it “wouldn’t help.” Laurie said she had only been volunteering, mostly with abused animals, and was told there were “no exceptions.” The Beacon Center then drafted a detailed legal analysis explaining how horrendously unconstitutional this all was (and also why the vet board was setting itself up for a massive lawsuit from parties less interested in being left alone and more interested in a legal payday) and sent it to the vet board, free of charge, hoping they would just reform their regulation. The Board notified us last week that they felt they had an obligation to defend even this unjust and unconstitutional regulation of their own creation.

Ours is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The government that Laurie and Martha dealt with is decidedly not. The Constitution exists to protect citizens from their own government. Let’s hope it works as intended.