Pictured Above: British Columbia farriers may only perform corrective or therapeutic shoeing under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Farriers and an animal owners group are teaming up in a bid to regulate non-veterinary hoof-care providers in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

“If you follow the letter of the law, farriers actually can only work under the supervision of a vet,” explains Gerard Laverty, a representative of the Western Canadian Farrier’s Association (WCFA) that is exploring the possibility of regulation. “That hasn’t been how it has been followed in practice, but it could be brought into place if they decided to do that right now.”

Although farriers have been relatively left alone, the College of Veterinarians in British Columbia has taken action against others in specialty fields.

“Bit by bit,” Laverty says, “the College of Vets in B.C. has been pushing people out of business when they are practicing in an area that they felt they could take over, such as massage therapy, chiropractic or equine dentistry.”

British Columbia Law

The Veterinarians Act defines the practice of veterinary medicine as “the art and science of veterinary medicine, dentistry and surgery, and includes, whether or not for consideration,

“(a) the diagnosis and treatment of animals for the prevention, alleviation or correction of disease, injury, pain, defect, disorder, or other similar condition,

“(b) the provision of a service prescribed by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, and

“(c) the provision of advice in respect of a matter referred to in paragraph (a) or (b).”

Further, a farrier’s duties are narrow, according to John Brocklebank, a veterinarian and deputy registrar of the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia.

“Only a veterinarian may assess and provide the diagnosis, determine the course of treatment or therapy and provide supervision,” he wrote in a 2012 paper. “For example, a Ferrier [sic] may trim cow and horse feet; however, he or she is not permitted to provide health assessment, render diagnosis, prescribe treatment including corrective therapy, or assess the efficacy of treatment.”

As is the case with most veterinary-related legislation, animal and human welfare are the prime reasons for its ratification.

“Many persons in B.C., who are not veterinarians, profess to have special skill, knowledge or qualifications in the area of veterinary medicine,” Brocklebank wrote. “The unauthorized practice [sic] of veterinary medicine poses a risk to the public and its animals. The public interest requires that there be a means to not only regulate who is qualified to offer but also regulate the quality of the services offered.”

The B.C. Animal Owners Association has been petitioning the provisional government to re-write the legislation to allow non-veterinarians to provide massage therapy, chiropractic work, dentistry, farriery and other services.

“These services are available under the radar and underground, giving rise to other significant concerns related to standards of education and scope of practice and disciplinary review,” according to the organization. “British Columbia incorporated complementary health care for people in the 1980s and 1990s. We now freely access this health care for our families, and we simply want these same options to be available for our animals and pets. We are asking our leaders and legislators to provide a legal and respectable place for complementary animal health care practitioners in B.C. law.”

British Columbia farriers do not wish to practice veterinary medicine, Laverty says. Rather, they want to perform customary farriery.

“An area that we’re going to have to get into discussion with the veterinary college is where is the line on a lameness case,” says the faculty farrier at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. “A vet will obviously diagnose the disease or lameness. In quite a few cases, the vet will draw up a prescription for how they’d like to proceed with caring for the animal and creating a shoeing plan, but that crosses over into the traditional domain of most farriers. We would like to have the language be more explicit in that a vet would lay out the treatment goals, but not the treatment specifics.”

The Road To Regulation

The group isn’t advocating licensing so much as it is regulation.

“Essentially, you would have a College of Farriers, and that’s probably where we’re going to end up,” he explains. “The goal of the college is to protect the public.”

As such, the need for education and a minimum standard will be emphasized.

“One of the goals will be education of farriers, but only with the aim of making sure that anyone who is registered has the necessary qualifications to be part of the registered group. Of course, then they have to maintain that standard. Setting a standard is to allow the public to know that whenever they hire someone who is a regulated farrier, they can expect a minimum standard of competence.”

If a horse owner believes that the minimum standard has not been met, he or she has the opportunity to pursue recourse.

“They can take it to that regulating body and expect that they’re going to get satisfaction,” Laverty says. “Whereas right now, the aim of all the associations, chapters and professional groups is education and promotion of the trade. So this would have a different goal. It’s all about protection of the public and ensuring that a minimum standard of competence is practiced.”

WCFA officials have formed a working committee and drawn up a document establishing scope of practice, standards of practice, pathways to education and how the college would be formed.

“Logically, most of these ideas start with a period in which everyone who identifies themselves as farriers would be grandfathered in until a certain date,” Laverty says. “After that date, the opportunity would disappear, and anyone who wants to practice as farrier then would either have to prove that they met a minimum standard or take an exam to demonstrate they’ve met the standard, or enter into some kind of education pathway.”

That path will include an apprenticeship.

“One of the reasons I’m in support of it is because I see it as a pathway to creating formal apprenticeships for people who want to enter the trade,” he says. “The program at Kwantlen is a 1-year foundation. If you compare it with any other program at university, full credential would be a Bachelor’s degree, which typically is 4 years. In British Columbia, a carpenter, for example, will spend 3 to 4 years to get a journeyman ticket. So we are just at the beginning of education for farriers.”

To gain a firmer grasp of an apprentice program, the WCFA has invited David Goodall, registrar of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, and Wayne Preece, a former instructor at the Hereford School of Farriery at Myerscough College & University Centre, to offer their perspectives on the British system of registration and training farriers. Goodall and Preece will be attending the WCFA’s Fall Conference and Contest, which will take place Oct. 12-14 in Chilliwack.

“That will probably be where the largest amount of work needs to be done,” Laverty says.

The farrier group has started the discussion with the veterinary college, but have yet to meet in person. In addition, Laverty was among a group of three farriers who met in early May with Lana Popham, minister of agriculture, and Wes Shoemaker, the deputy minister of agriculture.

“We’ve had one meeting with the government, which was just a preliminary, exploratory meeting, to get to know who we are dealing with,” he says. “Their message to us was they want to see that there’s broad support across the trade and within the animal industry — the horse industry, in particular.”

No specific timetable has been set to finalize regulation.

“We’re expecting that it’s going to take a number of years,” he says. “I can’t see that our group would have the energy to keep going for much longer than 2 years. The problem is that most farriers are just too busy over summer. So the process ebbs and flows a bit. We seemed to be making a lot of progress during the spring.”

Laverty expects progress to pick back up in the fall. In the meantime, the B.C. Animal Owners Association remains active.

“This lobby group that is in the background is applying pressure to each of the areas of practice — whether it chiropractic, farrier, dentistry and also promoting the idea among animal owners,” he says. “What they’re trying to do is create pressure from the public to demand that this happen, and that’s what I think has really changed the whole equation.”