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Oct 20 2011

California Veterinary Board Says NO to Dog Groomers Cleaning Teeth With Dental Scalers

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The vets have placed canine dental hygiene under their scope of practice.
At a meeting on Monday — at the San Diego Zoo, no less — the California Veterinary Medical Board voted unanimously to officially place the practice of scraping a pet’s teeth under their scope of practice.

This means that, barring some reprieve, hundreds of groomers are going to have to stop offering the service — though any pet owner who wants can still walk into a pet supply store and plop down $5 or so for a scaler, a six-inch dental pick designed for dogs or cats, and use it themselves. Each says the fight is about money — specifically the profits the other side is trying to protect.

Now both sides are vowing to bring their fight to the Legislature next year. If previous pet-related fights are any indication, this one could keep Capitol phones, fax machines and email accounts humming, as the spay-neuter battle did a few years back.

It’s the latest in a class of battles that has long been fought in state politics — the “scope of practice” rules that determine who is allowed to do what under state law.

The Veterinary Board includes five veterinarians, though one of these positions is vacant, and three public members, all of whom supported the regulation.

The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has long sought to get scalers added to the list of gear that only a licensed veterinarian can use for pay. The 7-0 vote on Monday just clarifies the matter, said CVMA president Jay Kerr. He said the paid use of a scaler by someone working outside of a vet’s office was “already illegal,” but the vote was part of a wider strategy to actually ban the practice.

They’re also pushing SB 697 by Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, which was introduced in April but has been turned into a two-year bill. The bill would clarify some scope-of-practice issues around veterinary medicine. It would also make it a misdemeanor to ignore citations from the board. The bill mentions possible fines, and Kerr said his group was hoping to make sure these are high enough to have a deterrent effect.

I wonder if the dog groomers will bring this matter to the attention of the Federal Trade Commission and claim restraint of trade issues. The Kiosk human teeth bleaching folks did this in North Carolina and the feds have so far overruled the Dental Board.

Maybe they will try state legislation as well as a federal adminsitrative action approach.

But, stay tuned, because the issue will not be going away.

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