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Horse owners annoyed about new teeth floating law

Comanche County_Horses need "teeth floating" every six months to a year since their teeth grow continually.  They need their teeth filed - or floated - so their ever-growing teeth won't cause them discomfort or pain.  Until last year, almost anyone could do it, but a law passed in November of 2008 made the practice a felony for anyone who is not a licensed veterinarian.  A lot of horse owners are unhappy about the relatively new law, and one person already has been arrested.  Horse owners rallied at the Oklahoma capitol to protest the law.

Jane Ann Whisenhunt says the law is inconvenient.  Since horse teeth constantly are growing, floating must be done regularly.  Sometimes the horse must be sedated - that's where horse owners say the problem lies.  Whisenhunt cares for more than 50 horses on her ranch in eastern Comanche County.  It's a lot of work feeding, grooming, and floating horses teeth.  "I miss not being able to have Chris down here, my dentist down here, who comes in here does all of my horses and walks out," she said.  "Now I am going to have to haul them to the vet's."

Hauling the horses to the vet is a hassle, but must be done if the horse is to be kept healthy.  "[If their teeth aren't floated] they are not being able to chew their food and utilize their food," said Whisenhunt. 

The State Board of Veterinarian Examiners says sedation of the animals is the main concern, and the reason for the law.  It says that those who are not licensed vets should not possess the drugs need to sedate the horse.  "I can see both sides - I really can," said Whisenhunt.  "The safety of the horses is the most important thing."  However, she says a lot of vets don't like to float horses teeth.  "They will tell you flat out they don't like to float teeth," she said.  "It's hard on them - stressful.  Most dentists I know would prefer the equine dentist to do it."

For now, vets must do it.  "Some horses may have to wait a little longer just because financially I can't," Whisenhunt said.  Some owner say not every vet will float horses teeth, and it's hard to find ones that do.  The Board of Veterinarian Examiners says there are about 250 licensed vets in the state who will perform the procedure, but in Comanche County there only are three vets who will perform the service.  One vet in the area says he favors the law, and that it was passed strictly for the safety of the horses.

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