Texas Entrepreneurs Win Fight for Economic Liberty

Carl Mitz is a third-generation horseman. The Texan is widely known as one of the nation’s best horse dentists. He’s treated the teeth of over 100,000 horses and has clients in over 30 states.

But Texas bureaucrats tried for years to shut him down.

In a classic case of economic protectionism, Carl and all other Texas equine dentists were told they had to spend up to $100,000 and four years at veterinary school, where they would learn next to nothing about caring for horses’ teeth, or else abandon their occupation. To top it off, they were threatened with massive fines and even jail.

Instead of giving up his American Dream, Carl teamed up with other Texas horsemen and the Institute for Justice to fight for their right to earn an honest living.

And this week, they won.

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On Tuesday, a Texas judge struck down the effort by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to put equine dentists like Carl–known as floaters–out of business and leave the state’s approximately one million horses without proper dental care.

Clark Neily, the Institute for Justice senior attorney that filed the lawsuit, said:

The judge made clear to the Vet Board that enough is enough. The ruling means that Texas’ horse teeth floaters are free to go back to work. This case shows that when the government violates the law, entrepreneurs can fight back and win.

Horses’ teeth grow constantly and thus occasionally need to be filed–or floated–an important procedure that ensures horses can chew properly. For centuries, the practice has been performed by specialized “horse teeth floaters” whose knowledge of equine dentistry often far exceeds that of veterinarians.

Texas’s blatantly anti-competitive regulation served the sole purpose of maximizing the incomes of largely untrained, unqualified, ill-equipped veterinarians at the expense of horse owners and Texas entrepreneurs.

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The Texas Vet Board previously recognized that the state’s one million horses could not be serviced by vets alone, stating that “there are not enough veterinarians skilled in equine dentistry to meet the public’s needs.” But that didn’t stop the Board from changing its tune and sending waves of cease-and-desist letters to floaters, ordering them to stop working immediately.

Futher, the Board denied that it had changed its floating policy, stalling the IJ lawsuit for two years. The Board would eventually acknowledge its policy change, but claimed that its actions could not be challenged in court.

The Board was wrong again.

The lawsuit garnered significant national coverage. The Economist profiled the case in an article titled Of horses’ teeth and liberty: The home of unbridled capitalism has more red tape than you think, concluding:

The late Mancur Olson, an economist, predicted that interest groups will grow in number until they cause their host society to slip into economic decline. America . . . surely needs more watchdogs (and horse floaters) to growl at the regulators.

Indeed, Carl Mitz and the Texas floaters fought back, and didn’t stop until they won.

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