Proposed Changes to California Law Could Limit Equine Physical Therapy

Massage therapist Bronwyn Watts working on Calling All Comets. Photo courtesy of Valerie Ashker. Massage therapist Bronwyn Watts working on Calling All Comets. Photo courtesy of Valerie Ashker.

A new law proposed by the California State Veterinary Medical Board could create enormous roadblocks for equine bodywork practitioners and sport horse owners in the state. The law, which will face a public hearing tomorrow, September 1o, would make it illegal for horse owners in California to use their current body worker unless he or she is a veterinarian, vet tech, or licensed physical therapist under the direct onsite supervision of a veterinarian.

The proposed regulation would prohibit a variety of physical therapy options in California that are highly lauded and frequently used within the sport horse world. The proposed regulation would define animal rehabilitation (AR) as:

“the use of the physical, chemical, and other properties of thermal, magnetic, biofeedback technology, hydrotherapy (such as underwater treadmills), electricity, sound, therapeutic massage, manual therapy, and active, passive, and resistive exercise for the prevention, cure, or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of animals. AR includes evaluation, treatment, instruction, and consultative services.”

This proposed law would effectively bring this wide array of therapies under the close inspection and regulation of the California State Veterinary Medical Board, rendering all activity from unlicensed practitioners as illegal. As stated in the Animal Rehabilitation Notice, the board’s rationale for this move is “to eliminate the unlicensed and/or unauthorized practice of AR in California, which poses a threat to animals treated without the expertise of a supervising veterinarian.”

Numerous eventers in California have expressed concern over the ramifications of the new law and are worried that it will change the way they are able to treat their sport horses. With the recent rise in effective physical therapy tools and the general acceptance of therapeutic massage and chiropractic adjustments, this regulation would limit accessibility and effectively drive up costs for such treatment.

While we appreciate the urge to prevent harm caused to animals by unlicensed and ineffective rehabilitation practitioners, this law could ultimately do more harm than good. Not only does the proposed regulation seem to extinguish the businesses of a multitude of equine physical therapists, but it also places a greater burden upon veterinary practices, who would be required to provide and/or supervise all animal rehabilitative therapies.

To read the extent of the proposed law changes, click over to the  website California State Veterinary Medical Board’s website here. To read more about the reasoning behind the proposed increase in regulation for Animal Rehabilitation in California, click here to read the board’s Initial Statement of Reasons.

There has been a petition created in order to express dissatisfaction with the proposed regulation, which you can access and sign here.

What do you think, EN? Is this proposed regulation a positive or negative for California horse owners?