One would think in this struggling economy, that state agency leaders would be looking for ways to attract businesses to California and create jobs, right?
You may be surprised to learn that just the opposite is happening. In fact, as times get tough, companies and special interest groups are the ones directing more and more resources (“money” and “junkets” to vacation destinations) to entice government officials to favor the special interest’s needs and shut out the competition.
That is exactly what happened on Monday, October 17th, as Board members of the California Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) traveled to The San Diego Zoo to hold a hearing. Representatives from the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) were on hand the night before, pandering to the needs of the Board members at their hotel, in closed-door ‘meetings’ to discuss a strategic effort to change state law in a way which would remove the veterinarians’ main competition.
What could the VMB possible be interested in doing that would kill 800 California jobs? Making it illegal for anyone other than a licensed veterinarian or their personal assistant to use a hand scalar (soft-metal scraper), to pick tartar and plaque from an animal’s tooth. Yes, we are talking about the same $3 tool that any member of the public can go purchase off of the shelf from any corner drug store.
Like one fingernail rubbing against another fingernail, the scalar is intentionally matched in hardness to equal that of the hardness of the pet’s teeth, so the tool causes no injury to the normally exposed and visible portion of the tooth.
In making its decision, certainly the Board relied upon evidence (or at least studies and research), to make their decision, right? No.
So what was the Board’s sound reasoning for outlawing the tool by unlicensed individuals? Because they claim they are “looking out for the safety and well-being of animals and consumers.” Whatever that means!
Then there must at least be examples of abuse… right? No.
This entire discussion (and the reason for the change in law), is the cosmetic teeth cleaning service for show dogs and household pets. The strange part it, none of the Board members have ever actually seen a cosmetic teeth cleaning performed – they admitted that on the record.
So what happened when asked to present even one example of a verified complaint where an animal was harmed or a consumer was displeased in all of the 32 years that cosmetic teeth cleaning has been around in California (about 3.8 million procedures)? Were there any problems with animals having had their teeth cleaned by these unlicensed cosmetic teeth cleaning professionals?
Not even one verified complaint.
Now, after 32 years, the VMB now deems it important to change state law and shut down these small businesses. So then, since the record shows no abuse or misuse in 32 years and after nearly 4 million California cleanings, what could possibly be the reason?
Most of the Board members are veterinarians or make a living directly from veterinary services, and the veterinarians as well as their political special interest association know that this $12 million per year chunk of the pet service industry can be redirected through their own front doors if they can just pull up the ladder and prohibit anyone outside of their profession from delivering the services.
“This is all about money, and individual state officials using their position to increase profits for their own private practices”, says Matt Gray, a California lobbyist with Capital Alliance who is assigned to follow this issue. “There is no evidence to support this change in state law, and it will definitely hurt consumers.”
Added Cost to Consumers
Customers presently pay about $100 for a pet store to perform a cosmetic teeth cleaning that removes tartar and plaque, and $20 for a follow-up appointment to touch-up the teeth. Veterinarians charge $400 – $800, and generally use anesthesia which in many cases has been the cause of pet deaths and permanent brain damage in about 1 out of every 600 cases. Customers are angry that their pets are being needlessly killed when safer alternatives exist – but veterinarians often don’t tell customers about alternative treatments.
“This decision interferes with the free market,” says Gray. “Veterinarians haven’t been able to provide any evidence to support the change in law, and since they cannot be competitive, they changed the rules to give themselves an artificial advantage.”
You Can’t Have it Both Ways
The Board claims outlawing the use of a scalar is “merely clarifying existing law,” but existing law only restricts actions for the “prevention, cure or relief of any wound…” and “preventative dental procedures….”
Cosmetic teeth cleaning is purely cosmetic, and it not intended to prevent, cure, or relief any medical or health need.
Oddly enough, Board members and even their own hired experts stated on the record that “cosmetic teeth cleaning” by unlicensed businesses offer “no health benefit or preventative purpose” and are purely, well, cosmetic.
But at the same meeting, speaking out of the other side of their mouths, the Board claimed that cosmetic teeth cleaning “are not benign” and are “very invasive procedures.”
Bad for Small Businesses, Bad for California
Clearly, since the board recognizes cosmetic teeth cleaning serves “no health benefit or preventative purpose”, and existing law only addresses preventative and curative health purposes, then existing law doesn’t address cosmetic teeth cleaning.
So then, why did the Board’s “Economic Impact Report” say there would be no negative results from eliminating this $12 million from small businesses?
Because they wrote the report, and despite what existing law says, the Veterinary Medical Board has a financial interest in showing that their veterinary members should have all the rights to cosmetic teeth cleaning.
The Board has failed to provide any examples or evidence in support of its decision to change state law.
“The evidence shows cosmetic teeth cleaning is safe for animals and a valued service for pet owners,” says Gray. “This $12 million per year industry has veterinarians licking their chops and doing whatever they can to mark it as their territory.”
“There can be only one conclusion, and we don’t change state law for personal gain,” says Gray. “This change in law is foolish, patently self-serving, and will end up costing consumer six times more for a basic service.”