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 forty-five 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 several of The Equiery’s readers had already reached months ago: that although the Chiropractic Board may regulate and license human massage therapist, they have absolutely no jurisdiction over 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,” Mercedes explained at the time.
With representation provided by the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm, Mercedes 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, 2008 that said, despite the internal memo to the Chiropractic Board regarding an overview of the vet practice laws, the Vet Board had no problem with Mercedes’ 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 opportunities to reconsider its position (foreshadowing his ruling), but still the Chiropractic Board held firm. Likewise, Mercedes stayed the course, and on July 30, the Judge issued his ruling, denying all motions by the Chiropractic Board for dismissal and affirming Mercedes’ constitutional right to practice massage therapy on animals.
Not only does Judge Boynton’s decision confirm Mercedes’ 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 the therapist 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 [animals],” which would qualify as the practice of veterinary medicine.
See September print edition for more on the final Court appearance and reactions to the ruling.
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The Washington Post’s John Kelly’s Commons
Institute for Justice Statement
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