September 2009

It is now official. On July 30, 2009, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton declared that there are no laws in Maryland which either regulate animal massage practitioners or require that animal massage practitioners be licensed.

It took one year and 45 days for the Courts to decide that the Maryland State Board of Chiropractic Examiners held no authority over whether or not an individual could practice massage on animals, but they finally arrived at the same conclusion that most of The Equiery’s readers had already reached months ago: although the Chiropractic Board may regulate and license human massage therapists, they have absolutely no jurisdiction of animal massage practitioners.

In late winter of 2008, using what could be considered an internal memo from the Maryland State Board of Veterinary Examiners as support for their position, the Chiropractic Board sent Mercedes Clemens several letters to cease and desist her animal massage practice, threatening fines and to revoke her license to practice on humans if she did not cease and desist her animal practice.

“The Maryland Constitution protects my right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable regulations,” she explained at the time.

With representation provided by the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm, Clemens filed suit against both Boards on June 10, 2008 for violating her constitutional rights.

The Vet Board quickly (well, for government) issued a public statement on July 9 that said that, despite the internal memo to the Chiropractic Board with an overview of the vet practice laws, the Vet Board had no problem with Clemens’ animal massage practice–and that part of the lawsuit was eventually dropped.

Eventually, the Chiropractic Board revoked the cease and desist order, but refused to recant its position that it had the authority to regulate animal massage therapists if they also happened to be human massage therapists. The Judge graciously provided the Board with opportunities to reconsider its position (foreshadowing his ruling), but still the Chiropractic Board stayed the course. Likewise, Clemens stayed the course, and on July 30, 2009 the Judge issued his ruling, denying all motions by the Chiropractic Board for dismissal and affirming Clemens’ constitutional right to practice massage therapy on animals.

Not only does Judge Boynton’s decision confirm Clemens’ right, in particular, to practice massage therapy on animals, by declaring that there are no laws in Maryland regulating animal massage therapists, Judge Boynton has now made it possible for all animal massage practitioners to be able to practice their trade without fear of interference from any government agency, so long as they are not making false claims or, according to the Vet Board, offering “massage services for the purposes of treating or diagnosing disease or injury of horses,” which would qualify as the practice of veterinary medicine.

Diverse Committee Proposal
“I’d like to thank The Equiery for attending the Mercedes Clemens court date and providing coverage of this important decision.

“Regulation is only an attempt to ensure safety and quality, but it is not a guarantee of either. If there was a movement in the Maryland community to regulate equine (or all animal) massage and bodywork, I think it would be best regulated by the profession that knows the most about the client, not the one with the closest familiarity of the practitioner

“In my view, if regulation were deemed necessary, I think it would be best [instituted] by a committee which would include representation from multiple professions, since the practice of animal massage spans numerous professional fields. In that case, my idea would be a group able to set a standard for innovation as well as competence for the nation. Perhaps it would be called a guidance or resource committee, and would include members from diverse professions involved in soft-tissue function, such as veterinarians, osteopaths, massage therapists, maybe even physical therapists, who also provide a focus on soft-tissue wellness.

“Again, thank you for your coverage of this important issue.”
– Leslie Diamond, LMT, Annapolis Equine Massage Therapist

Vet Law Challenge Timeline
June 2008: Mercedes Clemens files suit against the Maryland State Boards of Chiropractic Examiners and Veterinary Medicine Examiners.

July 2008: Vet Board responds and that part of suit in dropped.

December 2008: Courts granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the Vet Board, but denied the motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the Chiropractic Board.

May 3, 2009: Judge sides with Clemens and tells Chiropractic Board to recant their cease and desist order.

May 14, 2009: Chiropractic Board meets but does not lift cease and desist order.

June 2009: New motions filed and final hearing postponed.

July 30, 2009: Court rules in favor of Clemens and declares that MD has no laws regulating animal massage therapists.