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Karen Hough

Vote on Horse Massage Law Scheduled

A bill to exempt the professional practice of massaging horses, known as equine massage, from the state’s job licensing laws has been prioritized by the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature and is now slated to receive a vote in the Unicameral.

Sen. Mike Groene’s Legislative Bill 596 is now confirmed as a Speaker Priority bill according to the Nebraska Legislature website. Senators, committees, and the Speaker of the Legislature each have the ability to designate bills as priorities in order to favor those bills on the legislative schedule, which is particularly important in a short legislative session.

The bill currently appears on the Nebraska Legislature’s agenda for the week of February 26. While the pace of previously scheduled debate can delay a bill from being considered on the floor, it still means LB596 will likely see a vote very soon.

Nebraska is host to a wide variety of athletic events involving horses, and the state’s horse population is well above the national average. Despite this, many workers have found the legal path to running a business offering equine massage services to be full of barriers.

The only way to practice equine massage without working under the supervision of a veterinarian is by becoming licensed as an animal therapist. In order to qualify for an animal therapist license, a practitioner must also be licensed to practice on people in the services they want to offer. That means someone performing equine massage first has to be a licensed massage therapist.

Nebraska has one of the country’s most costly and time-consuming massage therapy licensing requirements, which takes 1,000 hours of training.

At a 2017 legislative hearing for LB596, testifiers acknowledged that under the current licensing arrangement, no one in Nebraska is lawfully licensed to provide equine massage.

In December, aspiring practitioner Dawn Hatcher of Columbus spoke to the Platte Institute about Nebraska’s current requirements for practicing equine massage:

“For a working mother, this was both time and cost prohibitive, and it seemed ridiculous, since human anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology is vastly different than equine,” said Hatcher.

“I can’t spend that amount of time and money on a certification I’ll never use. It doesn’t make sense. We should be able to focus our efforts on the specific equine training required for our field of practice,” said Hatcher.

Under an amendment proposed to LB596 (AM1500), equine massage practitioners would not have to be licensed, but would still have to register with the state.

The registration would have to be renewed every five years, and would require evidence of a certificate in equine massage from an accredited training program. Prior to 2022, previously uncertified practitioners could practice with two letters of recommendation by licensed veterinarians attesting to their competency to practice.

“We are excited Sen. Groene’s bill was picked to be included on the 2018 agenda,” said Nicole Fox, Director of Government Relations at the Platte Institute.

“LB596 creates an opportunity for many new rural, and often women-owned businesses, to be formed. Some people we’ve talked to have been waiting years for this red tape to be cut, and with any luck, they could be open for business before this year is over,” Fox said.

We’ll bring you updates as the debate on LB596 begins.