Nike debuted a new Tiger Woods commercial during the Masters Golf Tournament last week. In the commercial, shot in grainy black and white, Tiger stands facing the camera while the disembodied voice of his late father lectures him over the sex scandal that has clouded the golfer’s career.
"I want to find out what your thinking was," the voice of Earl Woods says. "Did you learn anything?"
Some of the recent actions, or non-actions, by state legislatures raise the same questions.
What were you thinking?
The Oklahoma legislature recently approved changes in the state veterinary practice act allowing non-veterinarians to float horses’ teeth, provided they satisfy newly established criteria. The initial certification requires 80 hours of training from a recognized school. For certification renewal, there is a continuing education requirement. Certification or renewal costs $200. So far, so good. Many lay dentists are competent practitioners who provide a needed service in the equine community. What these lay equine dentists are not is veterinarians, and therein rests the problem with the Oklahoma legislation.
The new law allows lay dentists to administer drugs for sedation, so long as the drugs are ordered and purchased from licensed veterinarians by the horse owner. These are not drugs available over-the-counter, but drugs that require a prescription before they can be dispensed.
One of the arguments made by proponents of the bill (and similar legislation in other states) is that few veterinary schools offer comprehensive courses in equine dentistry, and that experienced lay dentists often are more skilled than their licensed veterinarian counterparts. Maybe so. What veterinary schools do offer, however, is comprehensive training in pharmacology, and that training should be required before any lay person is allowed to administer prescription sedation drugs.
Horses respond differently to medications. Most suffer no adverse reaction, but some do. Will a lay equine dentist with no formal veterinary training be prepared and qualified to deal with a serious adverse drug reaction? Will the lay dentist have on hand the other prescription drugs necessary to treat a severe case of anaphylaxis when a horse reacts badly to a prescription sedative? Will the lay dentist know how to use them? There is no reason to think so, and the Oklahoma law does not require any competence in this area at all.
In the same vein, lay dentists should be required to obtain liability insurance for the protection of horse owners. If one of the goals of this legislation is to protect the public, the legislation should actually do so.
Did you learn anything?
The Kentucky legislature last year approved a change in the statute defining the veterinarian-client-patient relationship to require confidentiality of veterinary records. Exceptions currently in place allow release of veterinary information if the animal's owner consents to the disclosure, or if there is a court order. This change was a good one.
Unfortunately, there was a problem that no one in the legislature seemed to realize at the time. If veterinary records and other information about an animal are strictly confidential, a veterinarian violates the law if he or she reports suspected animal abuse to authorities. This is a problem because a veterinarian often is the first line of defense against animal abuse. There was an easy fix—amend the law so that a veterinarian who reports suspected animal abuse in good faith is not in violation of the confidentiality law. A bill to do this was introduced in this year’s legislative session and passed with unanimous support in the state House of Representatives. The legislation then was sent to a state Senate committee in late February, where is still languishes, likely a victim of partisan politics.
Did the Kentucky Senate learn anything? Apparently not.