California’s Equine Vets and Equine Medical Council must have a meeting of mind — that’s the conclusion of a series of public comments ahead of the regularly scheduled Jan. 19 video conference meeting, where a large number of racecourse and sport horse practitioners called to voice concerns about the board’s recent charges against racetrack licensees.
The most notable of the track vets facing action against their veterinary license is Dr. Jeff Blea, the medical director of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), whose license was suspended during an emergency board hearing on Christmas Eve. Blea is accused of failing to adequately examine horses prior to prescribing drugs to them, as well as failing to register and other areas of the state’s veterinary practice law. He has since been placed on administrative leave as the case unfolds. Blea isn’t the only one being charged – Drs. Vince Baker, Sarah Graybill Jones, Kim Lewis Kuhlmann, Steven Lee Boyer and Kenneth Carl Allison also filed impeachment papers against them in 2021 containing similar charges. Only Blea’s case has led to an emergency hearing.
Many in the racing industry, both publicly and privately, have questioned the medical board’s motivation for pursuing charges against Blea, as well as its public presentation of the charges as relevant to Blea’s work in oversight. on the death of Medina Spirit on Santa Anita in December. (We sent this letter from trainer Richard Mandella to the editor earlier this week to testify to the conditioner’s relationship with Blea before retiring from racetrack training.)
Speakers during the public comment period of the January 19 meeting of the veterinary medical board did not go into details of Blea’s case or mention him by name, but most suggested that the regulations under which the board filed an impeachment paper against him are outdated. and was poorly suited to horse practice.
“Not every veterinary practice in this state is conducted on small animals in four-wall hospitals,” says Dr. Rick Arthur, retired racecourse practitioner and former equine medical director for CHRB. “California Veterinary Medical Board regulations do not reflect the standard of practice, the high standard of practice in California outpatient practice, which makes it easy for this board to play ‘Gotcha’. That has to change.”
“The scope and tone of the allegations on your website are extreme, and they do not appear to be based on any knowledge of the standards of equine practice in this state,” said Dr. Michael Manno, Racecourse Vet at San Dieguito Equine Group. “I can tell you that if you can suspend a license based on these allegations and complaints, most veterinarians practicing equine medicine in this state might as well surrender their license now.”
Dan Baxter, executive director of the California Veterinary Medical Association, expressed the organization’s concerns about whether the regulations are in line with company practices.
“Following the recent enforcement actions taken by the Veterinary Medical Board, the CVMA has received emails and phone calls from numerous members practicing within the California equine community regarding the Board’s interpretations of minimum standards of practice and the enforcement of those standards, ” he said. “We fear that there may be a significant difference between the reasonable, sound standards of practice observed by equine practitioners in the field and the standards to which those same practitioners are held by the board.
“Without consultation between this council, the agency that interprets and enforces legal standards of practice, and the equine practitioners subject to that enforcement, the CVMA is deeply concerned that the equine veterinary practice in the state of California is already pursuing a profession where of qualified clinicians may be further stripped due to the departure of practitioners unwilling to subject their licenses or livelihoods to the whims of a framework that does not reflect the standard of practice observed by the equine veterinary community in this state. ”
dr. Russ Sakai, a surgeon at Petaluma Equine, agreed and also expressed concern about what these kinds of regulatory measures could mean for veterinary students.
“There is a lack of veterinarians who graduate and get into equine practice,” Sakai says. “I think it’s difficult to recruit student-level vets, especially when they see equine vets being subjected to this kind of what appears to be unfair treatment, or being treated with a double standard by a group of members who don’t seem to have an affinity for very in-depth knowledge of equine practice.”
After hearing the feedback, the Vice President of the Veterinary Board asked the California Veterinary Medical Association to submit a presentation to the Board of Directors outlining their concerns about the state’s Veterinary Practice Act as applied to equine medicine and any regulatory proposals they had to address those issues.
There were no specific cases to be discussed by board members during the public portion of the January 19 meeting or at a follow-up meeting scheduled for January 20.
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