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'Tis the Season to Give!

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This is the time of year that my wife and I start getting regular mail solicitations and annual donation requests from various charitable groups. The charitable spirit of the holiday season is relied upon by these organizations and a concerted effort is made to capitalize on it. Our society seems to be more motivated by the adage “It is better to give than receive” at this time of year than any other time.

The mail requesting donations that we receive is highly correlated to the previous year’s giving. We keep a list of each year’s charitable giving and review it and compare it to the stack of requests we’ve accumulated. Our choices vary from year to year, affected no doubt by recent events.

This year we are adding a new organization to our charitable giving list, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Foundation (WVMF). Veterinary foundations are established to provide financial support to animals and their caregivers in unusual and needy situations. On the national level, the AVMA has the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), which is well established and strong, with millions of dollars in net assets. The AVMF has distributed over $10 million in grants since it’s inception in 1963, including $100,000 for hurricane relief this past summer. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association also has a foundation the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) that was established in 1978. The TVMF raises hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and also has assets of millions. The TVMF has provided relief for hurricanes, including Katrina and most recently Harvey. Once established, a Foundation can act as a conduit from other charities to deliver the needed help to animals and their caregivers.

Keep in mind that foundations do more than disaster relief. Programs can be created for low income, elderly, or homeless pet owners to support pet care that might otherwise be neglected. Scholarships for veterinary students facing unusual or unexpected hardships, as well as public education awareness programs for pet care are other examples of the work of foundations.

Compared to the AVMF and the TVMF, the WVMF has just been born. We are in our infancy, but we have to start somewhere. The WVMF Board of Directors has met for the first time this past year. We currently have assets of approximately $10,000 total, a pittance compared to the AVMF or the TVMF. It is for that reason we have decided to help grow the WVMF’s reserves, so it can provide help right here in Wisconsin. I hope you will consider this too. If your clinic makes charitable donations in the memory of patients that have died, consider making them to the WVMF.

Watch for more news about the WVMF in the coming months.

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Presidents Message

Never Say Never

It was Tuesday, November 23, 1982 and I was an intern at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Teaching Center had a faculty of six besides me, and we met after each two-week rotation of senior students from Washington and Oregon State veterinary medical schools to review the students and get updates on state veterinary issues. Among the issues presented by our director, Dr. Stuart Lincoln, was his appreciation for all the cold weather we had just experienced. unbeknownst to me, there was an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis in eastern Idaho. Dr. Lincoln was sure we’d be spared in our southwestern corner of the state because mosquitoes, the vectors that transmit the disease, should have died and transmission would stop. That was the conventional wisdom of the day and regulatory veterinarians were reporting that the spread of Vesicular Stomatitis had subsided. Moments later, Delores, one of the Center’s receptionists, quietly slipped into the conference room and handed me a note. The note said one of the dairies we serviced had noticed a few large blisters on the teats of some incoming heifers and they wanted me to come out to take a look. So began the saga of an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatatis, a disease clinically indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Despite the recent twenty-four “vector killing” frosts in Idaho, the event Dr.
Lincoln had just assured us wouldn’t happen… happened!

This turned out to be quite the experience for a young, enthusiastic veterinarian. All of a sudden, I was on the frontline of a new presentation of a disease outbreak. The disease continued to spread within the herd until December 16, despite the fact that there was many more below-freezing days. I observed oral, feet, and teat lesions on the 332 cows that I examined. Nearly two thirds of the cows had lesions, many of them with lesions at multiple sites. Oral lesions were the most common, which resulted in excessive amounts of saliva contamination in the waterers. We were able to isolate the virus from one of the water samples. Animal-to-animal transmission was the means to the spread the virus in this outbreak.

There was a flurry of educational meetings to update practitioners in Idaho about the latest developments with our epizootic of Vesicular Stomatitis. Because I was the primary attending veterinarian of this herd, and had the most experience with the disease, the University of Idaho flew me, with other supporting faculty, to two different locations to meet with practitioners. It was an exciting and memorable time. But there was one “deer in the headlight” moment for me. During one of the question and answer sessions, a practitioner asked e the difference between a Vesicular Stomatitis foot lesion and foot rot. I instantly realized I was in the dubious position of having experienced more Vesicular Stomatitis feet than foot rot. I didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, I was rescued by one of the faculty veterinarians who answered, “foot rot wouldn’t have the vesicle lesions with it.”

This event early in my career came to mind when I noticed the CE event sponsored by the WVMA and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): Secure Milk Supply - Planning for the Unimaginable, on June 15 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.

Secure Milk Supply is a collaborative effort of industry, state, federal and academic representatives funded by USDA-APHIS. This is a new and important program to help mitigate the disruption of food supply and business while still controlling an outbreak of FMD. The voluntary Secure Milk Supply plan is a workable continuity business plan for uninfected farms in a FMD Control Area. One of the components of the plan is an Operation-Specific Enhanced Biosecurity plan, which herd veterinarians will help design, implement and oversee. This is a very important role in which we maintain the responsibility.

I realize it is hard to get excited about low probability events when we are all busy with high probability challenges every day. However, in today’s world with terrorists looking to disrupt our way of life, some sort of deliberate sabotage is a real possibility. The possibility of a FMD outbreak is just as likely as a vector free outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis was 36 years ago.

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