Letters to the Editor

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Thoughts on a national animal identification system

I read the recent JAVMA news article “Future of animal ID system unclear,”1 and the arguments reminded me of a time 30 years ago when Bang's disease ran rampant throughout the southeast. I worked in the state and federal cooperative program back then, both as a student and as a veterinarian.

It appears to me that the most alarming comments against the identification system are being made by individuals who do not understand the system of food animal production in this country.

Judith McGeary, executive director for Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, was quoted as saying, “What we need is to decentralize and support regional food systems and small producers.”

Those of us who work in the food animal industry and write health certificates regularly realize that a calf born in Georgia could be backgrounded in Mississippi, fed in Texas, slaughtered in Illinois, and cooked and served to humans in Alaska. Therefore, regional tracebacks would be much more inefficient, tedious, and time-consuming and the chance of losing the trace through regional channels would be much greater than with the current system. This is not to mention the increased manpower that would be required, resulting in greater expense to federal and state governments or implementation of a checkoff payment system for producers.

As far as government funding for the program, in the past, the federal government has joined with the states to provide cooperative funding of programs, and a producer checkoff could be added. With a checkoff program, funding would be based on populations of target animals in a given state, and each producer would be charged equally on the basis of number of animals that each producer sold. This would eliminate bias toward large producers, which was also touted as a problem with the current proposal.

Couple that with an initial effort to identify offspring and maybe even start with purebred producers, so retained males and females would eventually all be identified as babies.

The dairy program may have to be tweaked because of differences from food animal production, but these differences could be worked out.

Foreign importation is always going to be the toughest aspect of any registration system, and registration would invariably increase handling expenses of imported meat. I am not sure what approach the food preparation industry would take when they find out imported meats would cost them more.

All in all, a national identification system is the only way to make this system coherent, efficient, fair, and effective.

W. Byron Garrity Jr, DVM

Bluff City Veterinary Services, Natchez, Miss

1.

Cima G. Future of animal ID system unclear. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2009;235:486488.

The role of physical therapists in the veterinary profession

I read with great interest the article “Pet rehab becoming mainstream practice”1 in the October 1, 2009, JAVMA News. However, I was discouraged to read the comments of Dr. Tomlinson, who stated that the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians opposes allowing nonveterinary professionals “…direct access to animal patients,” and Dr. Millis, who “…worries about attempts to expand practice acts to nonveterinarians.” In my opinion, such comments only serve to raise unwarranted fears.

The Colorado Physical Therapy Practice Act, which was revised July 1, 2007, now describes physical therapy as “examination, treatment, or instruction of patients and clients”2 and does indeed allow for physical therapists to perform physical therapy on animals. However, the Colorado Physical Therapy Licensure Rules and Regulations3 effective November 30, 2007, have extensive provisions for education, clinical experience, and, especially, veterinary clearance for physical therapists to treat animals. Veterinary clearance is described as a veterinarian examining the animal and providing a differential diagnosis, if appropriate, and clearing the animal for physical therapy. The regulations also describe expectations for collaboration, record-keeping, and complaint procedures.

In Nevada, physical therapists must make a written application to the Nevada State Veterinary Board to obtain a certificate of registration. To obtain a certificate, they must prove that they are of good moral character; have been an active and licensed physical therapist in Nevada for at least 3 years; are in good standing with the state board of physical therapists; have completed 100 hours of instruction or course work or a combination thereof in animal physical therapy, which must include assessment and planning of treatment, behavior, biomechanics, common orthopedic and neurologic conditions, comparative anatomy, neurology, and therapeutic modalities; and have completed 125 hours of supervised clinical experience in animal physical therapy with a licensed veterinarian. The physiotherapist must also maintain a license as a physical therapist in the state of Nevada. In addition, the physiotherapist can treat animals only under the direction of a veterinarian licensed in Nevada who has an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship with the animal concerned and who assumes liability for the physiotherapist.4

Physical therapists are not only practicing animal rehabilitation collaboratively within the veterinary profession but are also leaders in educating veterinarians, veterinary technicians, other physical therapists, and physical therapy assistants in how to practice animal rehabilitation. Animal rehabilitation associations for physical therapists promote collaborative relationships and favor veterinary involvement by way of veterinary referral or clearance. It is important for readers to note that the recent practice act changes in Colorado and Nevada were created collaboratively with the respective state veterinary boards and physical therapy boards. These practice act changes should be the model for other states to follow.

Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt

Chair, Canadian Physiotherapy Association Animal Rehab Division, Cochrane, AB, Canada

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