Thursday, March 9, 2017

Suit: Who Can Legally Massage Horses in Tennessee?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 10:45 AM

A lawsuit filed this week seeks to protect horse massage (and those who can legally do it) in Tennessee.

The Beacon Center, a free market think think in Nashville, filed the suit against the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The suit stems from a recent move by the board to dictate that horse massage can be done only by a licensed veterinarian.

Two Nashville-area horse trainers, Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler, had been practicing horse massage on Stowe’s farm in Franklin. They both got cease and desist letters from the state vet board. The Beacon Center said the two were subjected to fines and even jail time if they continued to practice horse massage.

“I can’t hurt a horse by doing mayofascial release (the form of massage the pair used on horses),” Stowe in a YouTube video about the case. “I’m not treating, I’m not diagnosing any kind of illness. If there’s a severe injury, I call (the client) and say, hey, this horse needs a veterinarian.”

The center took up the case on the therapists’ behalf, calling the law “unconstitutional.” Then, it gave the board two week to rescind the rule before filing the suit. The law is excessive, the center said, and restricts Stowe’s and Wheeler’s livelihoods.

“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,” said Braden Boucek, the Beacon Center’s litigation director. “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?"

The center also fought (and won) a case in Nashville that would allow residents to open their homes to others through services like AirBnB, according to the center. It is also eyeing another possible victory as Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam seeks to repeal a rule that now requires licenses for salon shampooers.

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