January 25, 2007

Chairperson Rasmussen and Senate Committee Members,

My name is Vaughn Brown.  I am a senior at the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver Washington and appreciate this opportunity to speak out on this important piece of legislation.

I am certified in Equine therapeutic and sports massage by a nationally accredited program.  Because of my love of horses I studied massage so that I could work with them in a hands-on approach. I have been a rider since age three, studying English, Western and Dressage horsemanship.  My senior project was on humane horse training techniques.  Unfortunately, I am unable to practice my skills in Washington because the current law states that I need to be certified in human massage first.  Washington and Alabama are the only two states which have this requirement.

I feel that animal massage and human massage are two very different fields.  The anatomy of a two-legged human is simply different from a four-legged animal.  Illnesses and diseases addressed in a human massage course are, for the most part, not relevant to animals.  Animal massage therapy is meant to loosen muscles and east discomfort.  Horse trainers throughout the country recommend massage therapy to problem solve discomfort issues.  Horse owners use massage therapy as a way to build a positive relationship with their horse.  Competitors seek massage to increase their horses’ ability to win.

Animal massage therapy should also not require referral by veterinarians.  It is neither curative nor chiropractic.  No states allow, nor should allow, a massage therapist to treat, diagnose or otherwise handle an illness, disease, physical or mental condition of an animal.  This is outside the purpose of massage and should only be handled by a trained veterinarian.  Eighteen states allow animal massage without the referral or supervision of a veterinarian.

It has been very disappointing that I have been unable to practice my skills and earn income in Washington.  I am a responsible practitioner with appropriate training and liability insurance.  As you can see, I am blind, but I am also profoundly deaf.  I hear with cochlear implants.  As a deaf and blind adult I am hoping to grow my equine massage business and develop my skills in horse training in order to be financially self-sufficient and not rely on government assistance.  This is a field in which my hands-on abilities actually give me an advantage over my sighted competitors.  Simply stated, I wish to be financially independent and the state law is standing in my way.

I ask you to consider updating this law and passing legislation which permits me to be self-employed in Washington.  I love horses and horses love a good massage.