horsesandlaw
Friday, 09 July 2010 08:28

Horses and the Law “VICTORY FOR EQUINE MASSAGE”

Written by  Kenneth C. Sandoe, Attorney-at-Law
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Disclaimer -This article is intended as general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice. If legal advice is needed, you should contact an attorney. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author..

I previously wrote about the gallant effort of an equine massage therapist who challenged a cease and desist order from the Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners (Draft Horse Journal, Spring 2009). The Chiropractic Board informed massage therapist Mercedes Clemens that if she did not stop practicing equine massage, she would have her license to practice massage therapy on people revoked. Since massage therapy on people was her main source of income, she had no choice but to stop massaging horses.

The Chiropractic Board worked closely with the Maryland Board of Veterinary Examiners who took the position that animal massage was the practice of veterinary medicine. In order for Mercedes to give equine massages, she would have to attend four years of veterinary school and obtain her veterinary license. I commented in the previous article that the Board’s position was illogical. The law does not require massage therapists who work on people to become medical doctors, so why should it be any different with animals?

The equine massage therapist, through the non-profit group, Institute of Justice, an organization devoted to preserving economic liberty for Americans, filed a lawsuit challenging the position of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the Maryland Board of Veterinary Examiners. The Veterinary Board, after rethinking its original position, withdrew its challenge to Mercedes’ right to perform equine massage without a veterinary license. The Veterinary Board released a statement that animal massage was not the practice of veterinary medicine, and no license was needed to massage horses.

A good ending to the story? Wrong. The Chiropractic Board would have none of this. The Chiropractic Board continued to press for regulatory control and licensing of all massage-related matters. The Chiropractic Board argued that people who are licensed people massage therapists cannot practice massage on animals. The Chiropractic Board must have been concerned about the outcome of the case, as it repeatedly tried to have the Court rule on the issue by filing no less than three motions to dismiss Mercedes’ lawsuit without any type of hearing or evidentiary procedure.

However, the court out of Montgomery County, Maryland, emphatically ruled that the Chiropractic Board had no authority to regulate animal massage, and that it had overstepped its authority. The Court ruled that it was illegal for the Chiropractic Board to force Mercedes to stop her equine massage business.

The Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland, through Judge David A. Boynton, in the suit captioned H. Mercedes Clemens v. Maryland State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Case No. 296766-V, found that, although the Chiropractic Board had a legitimate interest in regulating the area of human massage and the use and misuse of licenses the Board issued, the Board had no business in attempting to regulate equine massage. The Court further held that Plaintiff’s massage therapy of horses did not involve the practice of human massage, and no license is required to engage in animal massage therapy in the state of Maryland.

The Judge further found that no evidence exists that the Plaintiff used or misused her license to massage humans in her practice of animal massage therapy. The Court ordered as follows: “The Defendant, Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners, lacked authority to issue the cease and desist order in this case. As such, the Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby granted as it relates to the cease and desist order in the case from the Chiropractic Board.”

The Judge noted that his ruling preserved the rights of both parties. The Defendant, Chiropractic Board, will continue to have the authority to regulate in the area of human massage therapy, and the Plaintiff, Mercedes Clemens, will continue to have the right to practice equine massage therapy without license and without interruption or interference by the Chiropractic Board.

This is an important decision in many respects, not the least of which, is the individual’s right to be free from abusive government control and regulation. The American spirit of independence has won in this case over the expansion of government and the intrusion by government into our daily lives.

Enough legal talk–it’s time to hitch horses.

Ken is a practicing attorney in Myerstown, PA, where a good bit of his practice involves negligence cases. Ken and his wife, Karen, own Sunny Hill Farm Belgians, and they have been exhibiting their six-horse hitch for the past few years at most major shows in the East.

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