Tighter controls proposed for horse dentistry in New Zealand could make the businesses of well-educated or experienced equine dental practitioners non-viable, according to the president of an Australian industry body.
The head of National Equine Dental Practitioners Inc, Peter Borgdorff, has weighed into the debate over the future of equine dentistry in New Zealand, with regulations controlling the industry being reviewed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Some tooth extractions in horses would become veterinarian-only procedures under the proposed regulations, which are intended to clarify the rules for surgical procedures in a range of animals.
The ministry’s discussion paper on the proposals acknowledges that the regulations will impact on the types of procedures that equine dental technicians can perform and may affect the viability of their businesses.
Public consultation on the proposed changes ends today.
Borgdorff, in a submission to the ministry made on behalf of his organisation, said he believed the proposed changes would lead to the stifling of competition.
“Regrettably, the ministry is proposing that these new regulations are to be introduced without adequate consultation time and industry dialogue,” he said.
He said that, as the educator of several respected New Zealand equine dentists, and as an industry representative in Australia, he strongly opposed any move to reduce competition.
It would, in his view, jeopardise welfare standards.
He believes the changes will result in higher costs for maintaining horses’ dental health, particularly so for younger horses. The figure, he says, is likely to rise to between NZ$200 and NZ$600 per horse per year.
“That is because the proposal is trying to make the removal of superficial baby teeth that are ready to be shed, a ‘veterinarian only’ or ‘significant surgical’ procedure if a pair of forceps is used to remove these teeth.
“In effect, if an equine dental practitioner is unable to remove ‘caps’ when they are ready to be shed, it means a mouth gag cannot be fitted between ready-to-be-shed incisor caps, nor can premolars be filed if ready-to-be-shed caps are present as it would risk pain to the animal.
“Similar issues apply to the removal of wolf teeth.”
He continues: “Horse owners, carers or trainers should not be forced to only use veterinarians for treatment of young horses when their practical training relating to all things equine dental is extremely brief and superficial because of tertiary curriculum cost savings and time constraints.
“Anyone committed to animal welfare would find it hard to stomach that people with lesser skills and experience should be given sole rights to perform these procedures.
“We believe that the informed horse-owning public fully supports the established spectrum of services by equine dental practitioners and that they should have the right to be able to choose who they want to carry out these services.”
Borgdorff has operated an equine dental practice for more than 30 years. He has trained 48 people to receive Australian Equine Dental Practice (AEDP) certificates or diplomas.
Under the proposed New Zealand regulation changes, there are two options under consideration in relation to extractions.
The first will allow a competent person to extract a deciduous incisor (milk tooth) or cheek tooth (molars and premolars) from an equid provided in all cases they are loose.
All other tooth extractions, including wolf teeth, would be veterinarian-only. Pain relief must be used at the time of the procedure.
The owner or person in charge of the animal has responsibility to ensure that only competent people perform this procedure.
Under the second option, a competent person may extract a finger-loose deciduous incisor (baby tooth) or cheek tooth in an equid that has an obvious visual recession of the gums and is protruding above the occlusal surface, but may not use tools or other equipment.
All other extractions would be veterinarian-only. Again, pain relief must be used at the time of the procedure.
The owner or person in charge of the animal again carries the responsibility to ensure that only competent people perform this procedure.
Proposed penalties are a maximum fine of $3000 for an individual, or $15,000 for a body corporate, for failing to use pain relief when extracting teeth, other than loose baby teeth. The same penalties would apply for an owner or person in charge of an animal for allowing the regulations to be breached.
The department noted that wolf teeth are routinely extracted for prophylactic and therapeutic reasons, including in response to behavioural issues.
“Scientific evidence is lacking on whether prophylactic wolf teeth removal is necessary,” its discussion paper says.
“Currently, non-veterinarians and veterinarians both extract wolf teeth. Pain relief is administered by some practitioners.
“Removal of wolf teeth is more complex than removal of deciduous teeth. All or part of the crown can be hidden beneath soft tissue and they can be large with deeply embedded roots.”
The ministry says the veterinary community has indicated a very strong view that extracting wolf teeth should be veterinarian-only due to the complexity of the procedure and the impact on the animal if the procedure is not performed correctly.
“As a result, the proposal that all extractions (with the exception of deciduous teeth) be veterinarian-only reflects that [the] non-veterinarian community are likely to have difficulty accessing pain relief.
“Without access to pain relief for extractions, a regulatory proposal allowing non-veterinarians to extract teeth with pain relief would not be able to be implemented.
“All other extractions are likely to be significant surgical procedures and therefore would need to be carried out by a veterinarian.”