Obiter Dicta

Unbridled Bureaucracy?

Equine Massage Therapist Rears Up at Rules and Regulations Regarding Hands-On Help for Horses

Posted Oct 1, 2008 10:15 AM CDT
By Brian Sullivan

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Illustration by Jeff Dionise

As a certified massage therapist, Mercedes Clemens is an expert at relieving clients of stress, tightness and pain. And it doesn’t matter to her whether those clients have two legs or four.

Clemens, 41, of Gaithersburg, Md., got certified for equine massage in neighboring Virginia but was told by the Maryland Chiropractic and Mas­sage Board of Examiners to cease and desist. It seems state law re­quires that animal massage be practiced only by licensed veterinar­i­ans—who are generally not trained in massage techniques.

“You don’t have to be a medical doctor to massage people in Mary­land,” Clemens says, “so it’s ridiculous that you have to be a veterinarian to massage animals.”

Clemens filed a lawsuit in June against the chiropractic board and the state veterinary board, seeking, as she puts it, “the right to earn an honest living free from excessive regulation.”

Paul Sherman, a staff attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, says the state regulation barring nonveterinarians from practicing animal massage does nothing more than protect a “cartel” of veterinarians from competition.

Chiropractic board executive dir­ector James Vallone had no comment on the litigation per se, saying ­in­stead, “We’ve never issued a sanction. We’re reactive to complaints and take administrative action.”

A status hearing for the case was scheduled for September.

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