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Environment: the bedrock of one health

Veterinarians illustrate ways the profession is involved in environmental aspects of one health

At first glance, veterinarians' role in environmental health is less apparent than their role in the other two legs of the one-health triad. One health, as defined by the AVMA, is the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment.

The AVMA notes that because of their expertise, veterinarians play critical roles in the health of the environment, but those roles are often overlooked. Veterinary medicine routinely operates at the interface of the three components of one health, with public health and toxicology being among the key areas of expertise veterinarians bring to environmental health.

The AVMA established the One Health Initiative in 2007 as a call to action for closer transdisciplinary interactions around the globe, recognizing that the changing environment increases human and animal contact and creates challenges for all three domains. That led to the 2009 chartering of the One Health Commission by eight institutional members and a summit.

At press time, 91 continuing education sessions were planned in the one-health track for AVMA Convention 2018 in Denver, July 13–17. Among the sessions with an environmental focus: Lyme disease, rodent control in urban environments, and zoonotic diseases and aquaculture. View the CE Program at www.avmaconvention.org and search under “one health.”

As Earth Day approaches on April 22, the JAVMA News staff is dedicating much of this issue to examples of veterinarians involved in one-health work with a distinct environmental component.

Veterinarians are working with other scientists and public health officials to understand cyanobacteria, ancient organisms present in all bodies of water, and to learn how to protect people and animals from the harmful algal blooms they can cause (see page 906).

Wild animals live everywhere, sharing the environment with humans and other animals. Zoological institutions and governmental agencies are among the organizations where veterinarians are involved in habitat and ecosystem conservation (see page 910).

Despite the Environmental Protection Agency developing ecological soil screening levels nearly a decade ago, toxicity reference values remain highly variable among possibly contaminated sites. Dr. Anne Fairbrother, formerly with the EPA, has dedicated her career to changing this (see page 913).

Dr. Fairbrother said: “I would encourage the veterinary profession to be more involved in environmental health beyond wildlife diseases. There are a lot of job opportunities if you're open-minded about where you might want to work.”

Operators of potential future fish farms in federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico will need to contract with a veterinarian or certified fish pathologist or health inspector. The AVMA plans to host a meeting this year on the regulatory aspects of veterinarians working in federal waters (see page 916).

Reproductive problems in animal populations, including developmental abnormalities and behavioral disturbances, have prompted concerns that chemical exposures could be affecting humans and other animals. It is an emerging field that is being led by veterinarians (see page 918).

Veterinarians have the expertise to adjust protocols for clients when climate change and other environmental factors negatively impact animals. Dr. Warren Hess, staff consultant to the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues, said, “In my encounters, it's underappreciated what veterinarians can bring to this field. The climate is going to change. From a scientific aspect, our main focus should be on preparation. If we're going to approach the health of the planet, adapting and preparing for what (veterinarians are) involved in should be the AVMA's role, in my opinion.”

Dr. Hess said there's a need to think more broadly about environmental impacts. With antibiotics, for example, he said most efforts are focused on resistant bacteria and which antibiotics are being used in humans and animals. “What is happening in the environment when those antibiotics pass through humans and animals and end up in the environment? What effect does that have on the environment, and what does the environment do with it?

“If we looked into that, we might find answers to questions we don't even know to ask yet.”

By Susan C. Kahler

Environment chair sees strong veterinary connection

Dr. Karyn Bischoff chairs the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues. She is a veterinary toxicologist and a senior extension veterinarian at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bischoff shared her insights about the application of veterinary medicine to environmental health and some of her committee's work with JAVMA News via email.

How do you see veterinary medicine coming into play with the environmental sciences?

Veterinarians can use environmentally friendly practices in their local environments by recycling when possible and disposing of drugs and biological wastes appropriately.

Veterinarians who work in agriculture can contribute by giving environmentally friendly advice on waste management and carcass management. Manure runoff can contribute to high nitrates and nitrites in the water system, and to nutrient overload in aquatic ecosystems, which could contribute to harmful algal blooms and oxygen depletion.

Veterinarians working in agriculture can contribute further by encouraging wildlife-friendly practices; for example, in Africa, they are protecting cheetahs by providing herding dogs for livestock protection. Clinical veterinarians can contribute by judiciously using drugs, which end up in animal waste and carcasses, and helping clients dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. Improper disposal of carcasses has killed wildlife and domestic animals through barbiturate poisoning, and in these cases, the veterinarians are legally liable. Manure from animals that have been recently dewormed can kill environmentally important invertebrates. Also note that veterinary use of diclofenac in cattle caused the near extermination of vultures in parts of Asia.

Veterinarians who work with fish farms have recently become more important in promoting animal health while decreasing the risks associated with animal waste and antibiotic use. Veterinarians have recently become more important to apiaries, and bees are important pollinators.

Veterinarians are working with state departments of environmental conservation to manage wildlife populations.

Veterinarians work in public health, solving environmental problems that affect domestic animals and humans. Domestic animals are great sentinels for things that affect humans. I have consulted in cases of lead poisoning where we found an environmental source that was also affecting the human owners of the animals. And I have consulted in cases where I suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in companion animals and have recommended that the fire department inspect the homes.

Veterinarians are making policy at the state and national levels through the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and other organizations that promote environmentally sustainable food production.

Give a few examples of relevant policy issues the CEI has discussed.

One example is feral cats. The CEI spent a lot of time on this issue because it's so multifactorial. Feral cats can act as midlevel predators in ecosystems, so they can damage populations of small animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. However, they also control rodent populations, which has implications for human health when it comes to spread of diseases like hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Lyme disease, and leptospirosis, though on the other hand, they can carry zoonotic diseases. For example, unvaccinated cats can transmit rabies from wildlife to humans. So, we have to balance all of these issues and come up with ways to manage feral cats, minimize wildlife damage, and prevent zoonotic disease, but also be humane and aware of the contributions the cats make to human communities.

We recently worked on a policy statement on lead poisoning, which is a major and predominantly anthropogenic problem affecting wildlife, domestic animals, and people.

We have been working toward a better understanding of harmful algal blooms and the role of veterinarians in preventing and controlling them and treating affected patients.

We have been discussing the role of veterinarians in preventing colony collapse disorder in bees.

How does climate change factor in?

Climate change is most likely increasing the risk for harmful algal blooms since most of these blooms prefer warmer temperatures.

Climate change is expected to change patterns of certain infectious diseases, in particular, vector-borne diseases, by changing the geographic range of insect vectors. Climate change is going to change the range of wildlife as well, and many endangered species are likely to have difficulty adapting successfully, so the need for health management in these species will only increase. I know some veterinarians who are doing work on recent moose declines in the northeastern U.S., for example, which are likely to be associated with increased parasitism due in part to milder weather.

Climate change will probably affect mold growth on grain and forage, thus it could increase mycotoxin production and affect feed costs for livestock. Certainly, we've had wet weather and droughts that have affected crop quality, and drought can actually increase nitrates in certain plants, which can increase the risk of poisoning in ruminants.

Extreme weather events are going to become more important, so veterinarians are likely to be called upon to protect domestic animals and wildlife affected by hurricanes, floods, fires, and other major disasters.

Interview by Susan C. Kahler

A one-health solution to the toxic algae problem

Protecting animals and people from lethal cyanotoxins

By R. Scott Nolen


(Courtesy of EPA/Eric Vance)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Cyanobacteria were ancient when our ancestors were taking their first tentative steps millions of years ago. Over 2 billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the earth's atmosphere, creating an environment that enabled the evolution of animal life. Moreover, through endosymbiosis, cyanobacteria became chloroplasts that plants have relied on ever since for photosynthesis. Free-living cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, remain important today, fertilizing soils, capturing nutrients, and releasing oxygen in bodies of water, from the hot springs of Yellowstone to lakes, streams, catfish ponds, open oceans, and frigid seawater beneath polar ice caps.

Another unique characteristic of cyanobacteria is that they've been killing and injuring people and animals for as long as anyone can remember. When environmental conditions are right—often meaning the presence of warm, nutrient-rich, stagnant water—cyanobacteria can grow prolifically, forming colonies of tremendous size.

Depending on the cyanobacterial species and strain and the growing conditions, these accumulations will range from harmless to toxic. The latter are referred to as harmful algal blooms, and their toxins are called blue-green algal toxins, cyanobacterial toxins, or simply cyanotoxins.

The first scientific report on a harmful cyanobacterial bloom was a letter by George Francis published+ in the journal Nature in 1878. Francis described the deaths of horses, sheep, pigs, and dogs within hours after the animals drank from a lake in South Australia where a bloom was observed. Numerous accounts of animal and human poisonings have since been attributed to cyanobacteria exposure.

Ingestion of intact toxigenic cyanobacterial cells or toxins released into the water as the cyanobacteria die can lead to clinical poisoning and often death within minutes, hours, or days. People have also experienced less serious illnesses as a result of inhalation and skin contact. One or many animals or humans can be affected.

Microcystins, a group of hepatotoxins found in freshwater blooms, killed 75 patients at a human kidney dialysis center in Brazil in 1995 when the patients were dialyzed with water from a reservoir that contained the toxins. Dogs have died after drinking contaminated water as well as after licking the cyanobacterial cells from their fur. A yet-to-be identified cyanotoxin has killed coots as well as bald eagles that ate the poisoned coots. In that case, the cyanobacteria had colonized exotic, invasive hydrilla plants that the coots ingested.

Concerns like these, along with the likelihood that HABs are growing in frequency and distribution, have galvanized a global community of veterinarians and other scientists who interact with like-minded experts in government agencies in a one-health approach to better understand toxigenic cyanobacteria, the seriousness of the threats they pose, and how to prevent HABs.

Why so lethal?

Of the thousands of cyanobacterial species, roughly 200 are known to be toxigenic, according to Greg Boyer, PhD, director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium and a professor of biochemistry at State University of New York. Those toxigenic species also happen to be among the most common. “Even though it's a small number,” Dr. Boyer said, “chances are good they're present in your water body.”

Dr. Boyer has studied cyanobacteria for the past 40 years, specifically those that produce poisons. The list of cyanotoxins identified so far is large and includes hepatotoxins, neurotoxins, endotoxins, and cytotoxins (toxins that harm cells)—and Dr. Boyer believes more will be discovered. Why these ancient microorganisms synthesize such potent toxins is a question that is yet to be fully understood.

“You may think of cyanobacteria as primitive organisms, but I think of them as organisms that have had 3 billion years to figure out how to get it right. They're very advanced,” Dr. Boyer observed. Dr. Boyer's lab assays specimens for a wide array of cyanotoxins.

Efforts to protect humans from exposures via drinking water and recreational waters

There's good reason to worry that cyanotoxins could wind up in a community's drinking water. For three days in 2014, the water in Toledo, Ohio, was shut down when microcystins from a massive algal bloom in Lake Erie were discovered in the city water supply. The following year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued health advisories for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin—another cyanotoxin—to guide municipalities' cyanotoxin test and response procedures for drinking water. Also in 2016, the EPA issued a draft advisory for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin for recreational waters used by swimmers. A number of states have similar advisories.

Problems in domestic and wild animals

“Monitoring drinking water and setting standards for recreational waters are important to protect people,” Dr. Val Beasley said, “but we can't forget about outdoor dogs, livestock, and terrestrial wildlife that may drink from surface waters; coastal marine mammals in areas where cyanobacteria from nutrient-rich water bodies are washed downstream into the ocean; or salmon that are exposed in coastal net-pen aquaculture systems.”

Dr. Beasley, a professor of veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicology at Pennsylvania State University, has investigated cases of cyanobacterial toxicosis since 1983, when he encountered swine in Illinois dying after drinking from a contaminated farm pond. He has published extensively on research into the pathophysiology, lesions, diagnosis, and management of cyanotoxin poisonings in animals.


(Courtesy of EPA/Eric Vance)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902


(Courtesy of Aerial Associates Photography Inc./Zachary Haslick

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

He explained, “More veterinarians in practice will need to be watching for cyanotoxin problems, and more should specialize in toxicology. These and other poisoning problems are national and global concerns—and our training provides a needed foundation in basic biology, pathology, toxicology, diagnostics, epidemiology, and preventive medicine.”

Dr. Deanna Grad-Vosslar, a practitioner at Rugby Veterinary Services in Rugby, North Dakota, has witnessed the lethality of cyanotoxins up close. In June 2017, she was called to a ranch where the owner had returned in the evening to find four of his cows dead, two calves close to death, and several other cows ill.

“When I arrived, there were about 27 head of cattle acting abnormally,” Dr. Grad-Vosslar recalled. “They were slow-moving, not aggressive. Many were lying down, and if they did walk, it seemed like they were sore or stiff. They staggered some and had a dull attitude. If you tried doing too much with them, some would go down, like you stressed them too much and they might die.

“The owner had rural water as the main source of water for these cattle. He told me it was shut off for a few hours earlier in the day because a break in the line had to be repaired. So, the cattle most likely had gone down to the lake to drink during that time.”

In the end, seven cows and two calves died, and the surviving cattle recovered. Testing of water samples and necropsies revealed the presence of two cyanobacterial neurotoxins: anatoxin-a and homoanatoxin-a. Dr. Grad-Vosslar wasn't surprised by the results. “Many of the signs we saw were consistent with what the toxicology textbooks describe for blue-green algae,” she said.

Dr. Melissa Miller, a veterinary pathologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, says she graduated from veterinary college thinking she'd never see a case of cyanotoxicosis. “I thought of it as a kind of zebra, something exotic you only see once in a blue moon, if ever,” Dr. Miller said.

Then in 2010, Dr. Miller was the lead author on a report that for the first time linked a freshwater cyanotoxin to the deaths of a marine mammal species. Twenty-one southern sea otters that were recovered from along the California coast had died of microcystin intoxication after eating clams, mussels, and oysters in which high concentrations of the toxin were found. The source of the cyanotoxins was traced to a freshwater lake about a mile inland. Tributaries carried the toxins to the coast, dumping them into the bay where the otters feed.

“Harmful algal blooms are a huge issue in California now. It's something we deal with every week,” Dr. Miller said.

Don't feed the bacteria, and don't constrain the streams

Wayne Carmichael, PhD, is an emeritus professor of Wright State University and an international expert on toxigenic cyanobacteria. He started studying them in 1970 when little else besides their lethality was known. Within a few years, Dr. Carmichael would identify the first cyanotoxin—anatoxin-a—and subsequently discover that cyanobacteria produce multiple types of toxins. He's traveled the world lecturing on cyanobacteria, to Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and Panama. He's authored reports for the World Health Organization and advised numerous federal and state agencies.

Cyanobacteria, he says, are an essential component of our ecosystem. They are rugged organisms, capable of surviving in extreme habitats, including desert soil and at high altitudes. Cultures in Africa and China have cultivated cyanobacteria as a food source for millennia, and their pharmacologic potential is currently being investigated. “Think of cyanobacteria as colonizer organisms,” Dr. Carmichael explained.

Algal blooms occur in eutrophic environments, that is, water containing high concentrations of nitrogen or phosphorus, which the cyanobacteria rely on to multiply. The primary sources for such nutrients are human and animal waste as well as fertilizers. Additional commonly cited drivers of bloom events are climate change, drought, and anthropocentric manipulations of watersheds.

Harmful algal blooms have been around for ages, but the rise in bloom events raises the question of whether the trend is attributable to better detection methods or an actual increase in number. Dr. Carmichael said it's both. “Our identification methods are improving, but there's no question blooms are increasing,” he explained.

“They're found more and more in water supplies where blooms didn't occur so much before. Maybe they occurred every five or 10 years, and now they're every year. And if you expand the growing season with warmer springs and warmer falls, you might have blooms going six to eight months a year instead of one to two months. The more stagnant, polluted, nutrient-rich waters we produce, the more cyanobacteria cyanotoxins we'll have.”

Dr. Beasley explained, “Nutrients have built up in soils, and they will be leaching them for a long time to come. Poisonings of animals and humans from ingestions of cyanobacterial toxins will continue to be a growing concern until societies take actions that reduce free nutrient concentrations in water and more streams are flowing freely.

“Needed actions include conservation of water, precision application of fertilizers, that is, only where and when needed, widespread use of cover crops, and restoring wetlands and native plant communities that surround water bodies. Natural resource managers and agricultural producers are working on aspects of this, but more is needed, including efforts by smaller-scale animal producers and those who are responsible for urban and suburban lawns, golf courses, and large- and small-scale sewage systems.”

See something, say something

While most states have a reporting system for harmful algal blooms, reporting is not mandatory. Moreover, cyanotoxicosis in humans and other animals may not be recognized and, therefore, may go unreported. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November 2017 described the results of a pilot surveillance system for cyanobacteria HAB–associated illness implemented in 16 New York counties between June and September 2015. Fifty-one human and canine HAB-associated illnesses were reported, including 35 that met the CDC case definition, i.e., skin reaction, eye and ear irritation, liver damage, and gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic signs and symptoms. Of those, 32 were in humans and three in dogs.

In previous years, New York never had more than 10 such illnesses reported statewide. “The pilot surveillance results … suggest that HAB-associated illnesses might be more common than previously thought,” the study concluded.

“My experience,” Dr. Miller said, “is these exposures are underreported for a variety of reasons. We lack an infrastructure that makes reporting compulsory, easy, and simple. There's a lot still unknown about these toxins, so recognizing a case can be tricky. I'm aware of anecdotal events from people I know who got sick after being in the water during a bloom event. Their symptoms weren't bad enough to report.”

In 2016, the CDC launched the One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System as part of its National Outbreak Reporting System. OHHABS is unique with the agency in allowing states to report animal cases in addition to human illnesses. After five years, the CDC plans to publish a report summarizing the data.

“That will allow us to understand, going forward, if we are seeing an increase in the number of human health effects from these events,” said Lorraine Backer, PhD, a senior epidemiologist with the CDC who researches the public health impacts of harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Karyn Bischoff, a veterinary toxicologist and a senior extension veterinarian at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine as well as chair of the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues, says veterinarians, and the AVMA itself, are uniquely positioned to help mitigate the impacts of harmful blooms on animals.

“When there is a cyanobacterial bloom event, veterinarians are on the front lines, taking care of sick animals. Veterinarians are also behind the scenes in the lab running diagnostics. We can take a stronger role in educating the community about this serious issue,” Dr. Bischoff said.

Additionally, the AVMA has convened a multientity HABs working group that is studying how the Association can most effectively participate in this one-health issue. Dr. Bischoff envisions a national harmful algal bloom database that veterinarians can access for up-to-date information about bloom events in their area.

“Knowing this kind of information is mission-critical when taking care of a patient that may have ingested a cyanotoxin,” she said.

Conserving habitats, ecosystems everywhere key to saving wildlife

Veterinarians involved in conservation at organizations such as zoological institutions, governmental agencies

By Katie Burns

The romantic vision of habitat and ecosystem conservation is rather different from the reality. People picture wildlife living in pristine places, far away and far from humans. The reality is that wild animals live everywhere, sharing the environment with humans and other animals.

“I think there's been a big realization across conservation that we can save these animals—we have the science, we have the abilities to breed them—but if we don't have a place in the wild to put them back into, it's all for naught,” said Dr. Mike Adkesson, president of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. “So a lot of the conservation focus has really shifted toward not just protecting the species but protecting the ecosystem and habitat around it.”

Dr. Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, was speaking to JAVMA News for the July 15, 2017, article “Role of zoos is conservation, zoo veterinarians say.”

A habitat is defined as the natural environment where an organism lives. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of the environment.


San Diego Zoo Global works with this elephant sanctuary in Kenya to rehabilitate elephants and in hopes that Kenyans' one-on-one experiences with the young elephants will change attitudes in an area where there is human-elephant conflict and impact the design of wells, into which many of these elephants have fallen. (Photo by Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Global)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Among the various organizations at which veterinarians are involved in habitat and ecosystem conservation are zoological institutions including the Saint Louis Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, and the Wildlife Conservation Society as well as governmental agencies from the global to the local level, such as, for example, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Saint Louis Zoo

Dr. R. Eric Miller is a veterinarian and executive director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, and Dr. Sharon L. Deem is a veterinarian and director of the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine.

“We do look at the habitat needs of the wildlife that we're trying to conserve,” Dr. Deem said. “Without healthy environments, you're not going to have healthy wildlife populations. You're not going to have healthy livelihoods for the people around them.”


The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute participates in conservation projects to protect animal species at home in Missouri and around the world. (Courtesy of the Saint Louis Zoo)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

In northern Kenya, the semi-arid grasslands are becoming more arid, so people are keeping camels instead of cattle. The Institute for Conservation Medicine is examining the potential impacts of camel health on wildlife and environmental health.

In another program, ICM is investigating how endocrine-disrupting compounds are feminizing turtles and fish. Dr. Deem said pollutants such as these are everywhere, affecting human and animal health.

The WildCare Institute's Center for Conservation in Western Asia is working with mountain vipers in Armenia, including tracking movement of the snakes, which involves veterinarians. As a result, Dr. Miller said, Armenia has protected two new areas. The center has developed a viper breeding program at the zoo and is helping establish a breeding program in Armenia for native reptiles and amphibians.

ICM also tracks the movement of box turtles in Missouri and tortoises in the Galapagos Islands along with the animals' health status and human drivers of environmental change, including livestock production in the Galapagos. In Missouri, one goal is to put up road signs to protect female box turtles looking for nesting sites.

“Zoos in general are stepping up like they never have before for field conservation,” Dr. Miller said. “Zoos are lifeboats for some of the species, and they're critical for some that only survive because they're in zoos, but zoos now are doing field conservation in a major, major way.”

San Diego Zoo Global

Dr. Nadine Lamberski is a veterinarian and corporate director of animal health for San Diego Zoo Global. She said habitat protection is important to maintain sustainable populations of plants and animals. Living organisms are interdependent, and each species has a specific role in keeping ecosystems well-balanced.

Conservation can involve protecting pristine areas, restoring areas, and connecting or reconnecting habitats. In Peru, San Diego Zoo Global is studying movements of wildlife in the Amazon in a pristine area where people want to build roads. The data will inform placement of the roads.

In California's Mojave Desert, the zoo and partners are augmenting populations of tortoises. Dr. Lamberski described the tortoises as ecosystem engineers, building burrows that other animals use, too. The program raises hatchlings in captivity, releases them into the wild, and determines which habitat features lead to greatest survival. Veterinarians oversee hatchling health and nutrition.

In northern Kenya, San Diego Zoo Global is working with Kenyan veterinarians to protect the critically endangered hirola, a species of antelope. One veterinarian is studying diseases impacting the population, such as from livestock, and another veterinarian is working to improve livestock practices.

Also in the Amazon, the zoo is looking at various animal species in pristine areas and in mining areas to document the impact or lack of impact of mining on wildlife. The hope is that these data will inform management decisions on the location or extent of mines.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr. Chris Walzer is a veterinarian and executive director for wildlife health for the Wildlife Conservation Society's Wildlife Health Program. Along with doing field conservation, the society operates four zoos and an aquarium in New York City.

Dr. Walzer said most of the world consists of multiuse landscapes, with humans causing rapid, massive change. Livestock and sometimes pets also interface with remnants of wildlife populations.

When he started out 25 years ago, disease was viewed as unimportant in wildlife management, but the conservation community has come to accept the critical role of disease. The Wildlife Conservation Society is working on a project now to mitigate the spillover of peste de petit ruminants from domestic goats and sheep in central Asia to the critically endangered saiga, an antelope species.

The society has 60 field offices and more than 4,000 employees around the world, with the mainstay of the organization being pure conservation projects to establish and manage protected areas such as national parks. In multiuse landscapes, there are all kinds of projects, from forest restoration and preservation to marine protected areas.

Sharks have returned to the New York seascape, and the society's veterinarians are involved with die-offs and strandings. White nose syndrome, a fungal disease in bats, is spreading to the West Coast, and the society is looking at metabolic rates of bats hibernating in caves there.

Dr. Walzer said the Wildlife Conservation Society seeks to protect the wild status of wildlife. The society's vision statement is “WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth.”

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Dr. Mark Drew is president of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians and the wildlife veterinarian for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. His role at the department is surveillance and management of disease, often an indicator that things are going awry because of habitat quantity or quality issues.

The department deals with brucellosis in elk in the eastern part of the state next to Yellowstone National Park, where elk are a reservoir for the disease, although it originated in cattle. In recent years, elk have transmitted brucellosis back to cattle. The issue is how to allow cattle on the landscape and encourage elk to winter in alternative locations where co-mingling with cattle is minimized. Habitat rejuvenation or planting of browse species for the elk may allow them to winter in locations away from cattle.

Sage-grouse depend on sagebrush for food and cover, but they also eat alfalfa in irrigated fields, where there are mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus—which has a high fatality rate in grouse. Maintaining the sagebrush steppe ecosystem is critical for sage-grouse, and one major problem with habitat quality is invasive weed species.

“From my agency's perspective, habitat is everything,” Dr. Drew said. “If we don't have a place for wildlife to live, with all the things they need, we can't sustain what we're doing as an agency.”

When the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians was formed in 1979, most members worked for governmental wildlife management agencies. Current members work at zoological institutions, academic institutions, state and federal governmental agencies, and other organizations.

Dr. Drew concluded, “Veterinarians are an integral part of our ability to do anything to alter the health and well-being of wildlife and can be part of the team effort for habitat conservation and restoration.

The case of the wildly varying degrees of toxicity in wildlife

A veterinary ecotoxicologist is on a quest to inject more science in risk assessments at potentially contaminated sites

By Malinda Larkin

A real doctor treats more than one species. At least that's how one of veterinary medicine's favorite sayings goes—and there's a lot of truth to it, given the way veterinarians' versatility provides them advantages in many fields, including environmental science, wildlife health, and ecological toxicology. Few toxicologists other than veterinarians are taught about infectious diseases, body systems pathology, and clinical pathology in a differential diagnosis context.

Because the multiple permutations that occur in the real world cannot all be replicated efficiently in the laboratory, that comprehensive approach can be a real benefit. For example, the concentration at which chemicals are toxic not only to mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians but also to invertebrates and native microbes is an important consideration in evaluating risks from the release of those chemicals into streams and other areas of nature.


Dr. Anne Fairbrother is a retired consultant who has more than 30 years of experience in ecotoxicology, wildlife toxicology, contaminated site assessment, and regulatory science. When she worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, she helped lead a collaborative effort that created the derivation process for ecological soil screening levels, which provide risk assessors a source of reference values for toxic concentrations of various chemicals in wildlife to improve consistency among risk assessments. Having standard operating procedures will provide a transparent and repeatable method on a national scale. (Courtesy of Dr. Anne Fairbrother)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Dr. Anne Fairbrother, a veterinarian who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for more than a decade, has used this knowledge in a large collaborative effort to develop ecological soil screening levels, known as Eco-SSLs. These provided a source of toxicity reference values, or TRVs, for various species and chemicals that were hoped would improve consistency and streamline the screening process for risk assessments at potentially contaminated sites. But that was nearly two decades ago, and no progress has been made toward developing more predictive and precise soil cleanup values for the amount of soil that actually needs to be cleaned up, resulting in highly variable results among ecological risk assessments conducted throughout the United States.

“Using the Eco-SSLs to drive cleanup often results in cleaning up places that don't need to be cleaned up,” said Dr. Fairbrother, who has more than 30 years of experience in ecotoxicology, wildlife toxicology, assessment of contaminated sites, and regulatory science.

“Thinking about plants and animals, cleaning up (contaminated sites) is hugely disruptive. If you say, ‘Let's remove the soil or take out contaminated plants,’ you change the habitat. Habitat modification is a major stressor for wildlife. That's how animals end up on the endangered species list,” she said.

Pharmacology 101

Dr. Fairbrother has always been interested in wildlife. She was one of the first students to focus on nondomestic animals at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she also helped out in a virology research laboratory.

After receiving her DVM degree in 1980, she pursued her master's at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied under Dr. Thomas Yuill, now professor emeritus of pathobiological science, forest and wildlife ecology. For five years, they measured how stress factors interact with and have the potential to create problems for animal populations—such as how chemicals can cause immune system problems and increase disease susceptibility.

Dr. Fairbrother took a job soon afterward at the EPA's Western Ecology Division Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. She led the Ecotoxicology Branch for eight years and researched ways to measure biopesticides' effects on wildlife and developed methods for assessing immunosuppression in birds exposed to environmental chemicals. During that time, she and other researchers also started to develop approaches to determine ecological risks at Superfund sites. The Superfund—a federal program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants—was established as part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.

At Superfund and other potentially contaminated sites, risk assessors conduct an ecological risk assessment to determine which chemicals and how much of them are in the environment, the potential exposure of humans and animals to those chemicals, and whether the site is contaminated enough to spend money to clean it up.

When it comes to wildlife, risk assessors must determine what species could be impacted by chemicals at a site. Once that is known, a risk assessor measures what is in the environment to see if the animals have, in fact, been exposed, then compares the results with the amount of each chemical that is toxic in those species. The risk assessor must use a predictive TRV, combined with exposure assumptions such as an organism's body weight and food ingestion rate.

“Where we run into a problem is that we have lots of different animals, from shrews and mice to coyote and deer,” Dr. Fairbrother said. “They have differences in physiology, they absorb different amounts, and their bodies have different ways of responding to chemicals—the way (a chemical) moves through the body, the degrading enzymes each animal has, and how they excrete it.”

Yet, risk assessors commonly take a TRV for one species and assume other animals have the same degree of sensitivity, meaning they are overpredicting risk for some animals and underpredicting for others.

“At the very least, they have to acknowledge high levels of uncertainty. At best, they should try to find ways to appropriately extrapolate across species,” Dr. Fairbrother said.

Taking notes

When Dr. Fairbrother returned to the EPA in 2002 as assistant director for the ecology laboratory in Corvallis, she wanted to do something about this issue.

So, she helped lead the EPA Office of Emergency and Remedial Response in a collaboration among federal, state, consulting, industry, and academic participants. The result was the derivation process for ecological soil screening levels. The idea was to have standard operating procedures that provide a transparent and repeatable method on a national scale.

“So if you say, ‘I'm sure this chemical'—let's say copper or PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)—'is not going to cause problems,’ you want to be really sure about that,” Dr. Fairbrother said. “It could be if you had an amount above a certain level, it might cause minor problems or be a gray area, or if you had an amount at a level where it's very high, that for sure will cause problems. When screening, you want it to be below that gray area. We were able, through the Eco-SSLs, to standardize that and move people through the process cheaper and faster.”

The EPA bases its TRVs on survival, growth, and reproduction endpoints; behaviors; biomarkers; and up or down regulation of genes.

TRVs are specific to each species that has been tested. The 2011 paper “Assessment of risks to ground-feeding songbirds from lead in the Coeur d'Alene Basin, Idaho, USA” in the journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management provides an example of a TRV for songbirds at a lead mining site in Utah.


Parts of Silverton, Colorado, have been listed as a Superfund site. The Animas River is blighted and discolored from an accident where toxic mine waste was released into the river. Risk assessors for the EPA determine how environmental, wildlife, and human health are potentially being impacted, but their methods aren't always science-based.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Dr. Fairbrother said she's proud of what the working group accomplished, developing Eco-SSLs for 17 inorganic and four organic contaminants that are frequently found in soil at Superfund sites. At the same time, she is “terribly frustrated” at the lack of progress toward developing species-appropriate TRVs and soil cleanup values.

In 2007, she left the EPA, moved to Seattle, and rejoined the private sector. Dr. Fairbrother continues to perform risk assessments as a consultant. She and David Mayfield wrote the article “Efforts to standardize wildlife toxicity values remain unrealized,” published in IEAM, describing the challenges that ecological risk assessors face when trying to employ toxicity values for wildlife.

They found less than half of risk assessments used TRVs developed through the Eco-SSLs.

“We are still doing it the same way we did it 20 years ago, even though there is so much more knowledge in the world to be brought to bear to do it accurately,” Dr. Fairbrother said. “What the EPA is doing across different parts of the country, it is not using the same numbers for different sites. Each site has a different approach to cleanup values for wildlife (toxicity reference values).”

One reason for the variation is that some risk assessors use one TRV for the screening stage and another TRV for more detailed stages of the risk assessment process. Another reason is that the people who oversee the cleanup are generally not wildlife biologists or ecologists. “They are almost always engineers, and their primary focus at contaminated sites is human health. Maybe in the last year of the cleanup process they remember to do the ecological and wildlife part, and it just ends up being a paper exercise,” Dr. Fairbrother said.

But it doesn't have to be this way, as a better model exists, she said. When looking at human health risks, assessors can refer to the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System. For each chemical, EPA staff does a thorough literature review of studies on each chemical. After that is compiled, a board of experts reviews it and comes to a consensus on the value for that chemical.

“The fact that we don't do a wildlife IRIS across the country wastes lots of money” and potentially endangers animals in those areas through unnecessary habitat destruction, Dr. Fairbrother said.

NOAA, NGOs debate effects of ocean farms on wildlife

Litigation may be deterring investors; meanwhile, AVMA preparing for veterinarians' work in federal waters

By Greg Cima

Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been open to fish farming for two years, but no farms yet exist. In January 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service issued a rule that would let companies apply for 10-year permits to farm fish in federal waters of the Gulf, with five-year renewals thereafter. Up to 20 entities could operate beyond state waters in the U.S. “Exclusive Economic Zone,” mostly between 3 and 200 miles offshore, although no company had filed a permit application as of mid-February 2018.

Paul W. Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association, suspects companies interested in starting offshore farms are waiting for results of a federal lawsuit against the fisheries service. If the service's plan is upheld, he expects that gaining permits still will require years in a complex approval process involving NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and any other federal entities with interests in commenting on aquaculture plans.

In the approval process, NOAA would require that a farm operator have a contract with a veterinarian or someone certified by the American Fisheries Society's Fish Health Section as a fish pathologist or health inspector.

Suit alleges environmental, economic harm

Permit holders would be allowed to only raise fish of the same species that live in the waters. Regulatory and court documents indicate seven species are the most likely candidates for farming: cobia, red drum, red snapper, mutton snapper, almaco jack, greater amberjack, and mahi mahi.

In February 2016, 12 organizations with economic, environmental, or food safety causes filed a federal lawsuit that alleges the farms would hurt wildlife and ecosystems and take money from fishing communities. Nine remain in the lawsuit: Gulf Fishermen's Association, Gulf Restoration Network, Destin Charter Boat Association, Alabama Charter Fishing Association, Fish for America USA, Florida Wildlife Federation, Recirculating Farms Coalition, Food & Water Watch, and Center for Food Safety. Three organizations—Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Charter Fisherman's Association, and Clearwater Marine Association—left the lawsuit in March 2017.

Those behind the lawsuit say NOAA's fisheries service is trying to regulate aquaculture as fishing but lacks authority to expand into aquaculture. They also say the agency is failing to follow its conservation mission and ensure the safety of endangered and threatened species and critical habitats, as well as failing to follow procedures and time frames for reviewing and finalizing a fisheries management plan.

Their complaint document, filed in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, states that aquaculture has environmental consequences resulting from escaped fish, the spread of disease and parasites, and pollution through drugs, pesticides, fungicides, algaecides, and wastes. Aquaculture threatens marine life and ecosystems, increases the take of small fish to feed farmed fish, risks increasing energy consumption, privatizes public ocean resources, and alters markets through introduction of cheaply farmed fish, according to the organizations.

“The establishment of industrial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico creates novel and significant short- and long-term risks to the Gulf's fisheries, ocean environments, and coastal communities,” the organizations state. “Further, this action will serve as a precedent for the future siting and regulation of offshore aquaculture in all other regions of U.S. federal waters.”

The organizations suing NOAA also argue that farming fish in the Gulf carries risks beyond those associated with aquaculture in other locations because of oil and oil dispersant contamination from the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. They said in court documents that wildlife already is harmed by blobs of oil and oil dispersants, zooplankton with accumulations of poisonous compounds, and underwater oil plumes.

A Federal Register notice published in August 2016 indicates the fisheries service has been analyzing potential environmental effects if aquaculture were allowed in federal waters of the Pacific, including waters around Hawaii and 11 U.S. territories.

When the fisheries service published its Gulf aquaculture plan early in 2016, agency officials announced that the aquaculture industry would “push the envelope on sustainable farming in the ocean.” The service also cited improvements in salmon farming—feeds that stay aloft, vaccines that can reduce antimicrobial administration, reductions in escapes, and fallow periods between harvests—in indicating aquaculture is compatible with environmental protection.

NOAA sees need, ample safeguards

NOAA officials plan to issue permits to aquaculture companies that, together, could produce upward of 64 million pounds of seafood in federal waters of the Gulf each year. That would help reduce the gap between U.S. fish production and consumption, NOAA information states.

U.S. aquaculture—in freshwater and saltwater—produced about 630 million pounds of seafood in 2015, according to NOAA data. About 170 million pounds of that came from state waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Commercial fishing dwarfs aquaculture, bringing in about 10 billion pounds yearly. In 2016, about 1.7 billion pounds came from the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA fisheries officials, in a court filing from December 2017, said the plan for the Gulf of Mexico resulted from more than 10 years of collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to meet a growing demand for seafood without further exploiting wild fish populations, increasing a trade deficit in seafood, or harming protected resources and species.

The agency also argues it is entitled to some deference in interpreting the legal authority granted by Congress to issue this type of regulation, according to the motion.

Fisheries authorities have acknowledged that when it reaches a certain level, aquaculture could harm wild fish populations. But the agency could respond by reducing production, removing animals infected with pathogens, and re-evaluating aquaculture locations.

Aquaculture companies also would need to report within 24 hours any major escapes, discoveries of reportable pathogens, or interactions with marine mammals, protected species, or migratory birds. The agency also could deny applications for permits if a proposed aquaculture operation would hurt endangered species or a critical habitat.


This photo shows near-shore aquaculture, which is performed in state waters. Pens used miles offshore would be built to withstand open-ocean storms.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

The fishery service will consider site sizes, locations, environmental survey data, and the sizes of populations to be farmed and could deny a permit or particular site if it would pose risks to marine resources.

NOAA's court filings indicate the application process includes providing copies of permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA, along with detailed plans for operations, certification of a contract with an animal health expert, certification that the fish are free of pathogens, documentation the systems can withstand hurricanes and storm surges, and inspection systems for interactions with marine mammals, protected species, and migratory birds.

AVMA leaders plan to host a meeting sometime in 2018 on the regulatory aspects of veterinarians working in federal waters. Dr. Patricia S. Gaunt, chair of the AVMA Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee and an associate professor and interim director of the fish laboratory in the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine, thinks AVMA leaders will advocate that veterinarians working in federal waters do so while in a veterinarian-client-patient relationship, licensed in a state, and accredited by the Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Gaunt noted in February details were forthcoming.

Animal sentinels sounding the alert

From ocean health to fracking's impact, animals are trying to tell us something. Are we listening?

By Malinda Larkin

Veterinarians are accustomed to protecting animal health, but in some instances, animals end up protecting human health.

Several characteristics contribute to the ability of pets to serve as sentinels for human diseases. They are less mobile than humans and constantly exploring their environment by smelling and licking objects. Especially if they are small, they may be more sensitive than humans to a fixed dose of a toxin or infectious agent. And, generally, they have a shorter latency for most toxic events.

Today, some researchers are relying on sentinel species to study the biological effects of toxic materials and chemicals. By measuring these effects with the sentinel species in its natural habitat, researchers have the opportunity to evaluate several factors, including the effects of certain chemical combinations, of graduated exposure, and of low-level exposure over extended periods of time.

Reports of reproductive problems in animal populations, including developmental abnormalities and behavioral disturbances, have prompted concerns that chemical exposures could be affecting both animals and humans. The same goes for climate change. Although the evidence linking animal disease events to human health is currently limited, such links represent an emerging field of study that is being led by veterinary researchers.

Swimming with the dolphins

Dr. Gregory Bossart, senior vice president and chief veterinary officer at the Georgia Aquarium, has focused his research on marine mammals as sentinel species for ocean and human health. He has found that marine mammals are prime sentinel species because many have long lifespans, are long-term coastal residents, feed at a high trophic level, and have unique fat stores that can serve as depots for anthropogenic toxins. Marine mammals may be exposed to environmental stressors such as chemical pollutants, harmful algal biotoxins, and emerging or resurging pathogens. Because many marine mammal species share the coastal environment with humans and consume the same food, they also may serve as effective sentinels for public health problems.


An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is lifted off the boat and back into the water following a health examination. Routine examinations are performed as part of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project to help scientists and researchers better understand the dolphins' health in the context of their ecosystem. (Photos by Georgia Aquarium/Addison Hill)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

To further investigate, Dr. Bossart and his colleagues started the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project in 2003 when he was director of the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program at Florida Atlantic University. A multidisciplinary and multi-institutional cooperative effort, HERA was designed to evaluate the individual and population health of bottlenose dolphins in two southeastern U.S. coastal regions: Charleston, South Carolina, and the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, which is part of the longest barrier island complex in the United States, occupying more than 30 percent of Florida's eastern coast.

“The beauty of the study is the Indian River Lagoon is 180 miles long. The dolphins don't leave the area often, so what is impacting the area environmentally will more effectively impact this population. We've been able to follow their health and disease over a period since 2003, so we have been able to follow these trends,” Dr. Bossart said.

“What was interesting in the 360 dolphins studied was we found various infectious and noninfectious diseases that parallel emerging public health and environmental issues.”

In particular, the Indian River Lagoon has drastically changed, from changes in salinity and pH concentrations to changes in temperature, he said, resulting in algal blooms and a massive die-off of seagrasses, which impacts ecosystem and animal health. The changes also have encouraged the emergence of diseases that previously were unrecorded in this study area, Dr. Bossart said.

The HERA research team has documented a variety of infectious disease agents such as dolphin morbillivirus as well as emerging papillomaviruses and herpesviruses associated with orogenital tumors, not to mention chlamydia, new fungal organisms, and other pathogens.

The clearest example, though, of dolphins as sentinels occurred when the HERA research team found that the dolphins had some of the highest concentrations of mercury ever found in marine mammals. Taking this information, they looked at coastal human populations—specifically fishermen in the area—and found they, too, had high concentrations of mercury. Currently, Dr. Bossart and the HERA research team are looking at pregnant women in the area and testing for mercury exposure to see how important a public health issue this might be.

“Sentinel species are an important component of the one-health initiative, and veterinarians are becoming a key component of that because of their unique training,” Dr. Bossart said.

“They're trying to tell us what's going on in our oceans, and we're not good at listening to that. It's important for us to look into that, from an infectious disease standpoint. Three-quarters of infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. We have our work cut out for us. In our place, we need to pay attention to what dolphins are telling us about their health and the health of oceans.”

HERA researchers and Georgia Aquarium plan to expand the geography of the study into northern Florida. They currently examine stranded marine mammals around the St. Augustine area and have found high concentrations of infectious diseases in stranded animals there, Dr. Bossart said. They plan to compare the values in that population with those of the Indian River Lagoon dolphins.

Canary Database

As research into animals as sentinels continues, a database has been created to index thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies that give evidence of animals as early warning monitors of human health hazards.

Peter Rabinowitz, MD, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Health, directs the Center for One Health Research. As part of that, he created the Canary Database (http://canarydatabase.org), an online resource providing evidence of animals as sentinels of environmental health threats from both toxic and infectious hazards. The database includes studies of wildlife, companion animals, and livestock in which either the exposure or the health effect is potentially relevant to human health. For each study, curators add information about animal species, exposures, health effects, location, and whether the study includes data linking animal sentinel events to human health risks in the following ways:

  • • Exposure-effect relationships in the animal.

  • • Shared exposures between human and nonhuman animals.

  • • Interspecies susceptibility.

  • • Linkage between animal and human health outcomes.

  • • Gene sequence information.

  • • Suggested uses of the data.

The goal is to develop ways to better understand and use animal and human disease sentinel events to detect and control shared health threats from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in the environment.

Dr. Rabinowitz and others have been investigating the impact fracking has on humans and animals, for example. Natural gas extraction activities, including the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, may pose health risks to both human and animal populations in close proximity to sites of extraction activity.

In a study published in March 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, researchers (including Dr. Rabinowitz) hypothesized that because animals may have increased exposure to contaminated water and air as well as more susceptibility than nearby humans to contaminant exposures, animal disease events in communities living near natural gas extraction may provide sentinel information useful for human health risk assessment.

They collected health data on 2,452 companion and backyard animals living in 157 randomly selected households of Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is an area of active natural gas drilling. A total of 127 health conditions were reported, most commonly among dogs. When reports from all animals were considered, no meaningful associations were found between reported health conditions and household proximity to natural gas wells. When data on dogs were analyzed separately, the researchers found an increased risk of “any” reported health condition in households less than 1 kilometer from the nearest gas well, with skin conditions being the most common.


Dr. Gregory Bossart checks for respiratory health as part of an examination on a wild dolphin during a 2015 health and environmental risk assessment project.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Not surprisingly, many of these same researchers did a follow-up study based on the self-reported health symptoms of nearly 500 people in 180 households in the same area. The results of this one, published in the January 2018 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, showed that even when accounting for confounding variables, such as age, cigarette smoking, education level, and occupation, residents who lived less than 1 kilometer from a gas well reported more health symptoms than those living more than 2 kilometers from a gas well.

Residents living less than 1 kilometer from a gas well were also more likely to report skin conditions during the previous year as well as upper respiratory tract symptoms. Even after adjusting for other health risk factors, such as smoking, household proximity to natural gas wells was associated with increased health conditions.

The study did not find an association between proximity to a natural gas well and increased cardiac, neurologic, or gastrointestinal symptoms.

PennVet hires new dean

Dr. Andrew Hoffman has been named the next Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, effective Aug. 1.

Dr. Hoffman is currently director of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory and professor of large animal internal medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine made the announcement Feb. 28.

At Tufts, Dr. Hoffman's leadership of regenerative medicine and stem cell research programs resulted in important contributions to both animal and human health. He regularly mentored faculty with an interest in clinical translational research.

Also at Tufts, Dr. Hoffman helped build and lead what it says is the world's first outpatient pulmonary function testing laboratory for equine and canine patients. He has led the Tufts Lung Function Laboratory for more than 20 years and served for five years as director of the Tufts Equine Sports Medicine Program.

Dr. Hoffman is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, past president of the Veterinary Comparative Research Society, and a member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

He received his veterinary degree from Cornell University in 1985 and holds a doctorate in veterinary science from the University of Guelph in Canada.


Dr. Andrew Hoffman

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

The selection of Dr. Hoffman concludes a global search to identify a successor to Dr. Joan Hendricks, who is retiring after serving as dean since 2006.

Dr. Hendricks has served more than 30 years on the Penn faculty, where she garnered acclaim for her work in veterinary clinical care and in the biology of sleep.

As dean, Dr. Hendricks has embraced PennVet's important relationship with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with her tireless efforts to show policymakers and citizens across the state what an essential and integral role veterinarians play in ensuring public health and food safety, guarding against bioterrorism and agroterrorism, and working to protect the environment, according to the PennVet press release.

She also led efforts to stave off a potential loss of state funding. In February 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a budget plan that would have fully eliminated state funding to PennVet. The veterinary school stood to lose almost $30 million, which constitutes 20 percent of its total budget. As the only veterinary school in the state, it has been receiving state funding for 133 years. Eventually, legislators and the governor relented after a concerted effort by PennVet and its supporters. The veterinary school was allocated $30.1 million from the state budget.

Morris Animal Foundation awards $1M for canine health studies

Morris Animal Foundation announced Feb. 23 that it has awarded nearly $1 million in grants for 11 canine health studies.

The studies are as follows:

  • • “Finding ways to block hemangiosarcoma tumor growth,” University of Minnesota, $177,316.

  • • “Understanding the relationship between intestinal bacteria and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),” University of Melbourne, $135,738.

  • • “Exploring the broader application of a new cancer drug,” University of Minnesota, $182,807.

  • • “Investigating cancers and exposure to environmental chemicals,” University of Wisconsin-Madison, $99,383.

  • • “Improving stem cell-based therapy for inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases,” University of Queensland, $13,189.

  • • “Improving blood platelet transfusions,” Washington State University, $27,389.

  • • “Using advanced imaging to diagnose and monitor spinal cord disease,” Cornell University, $66,565.

  • • “Understanding metabolic drivers of osteosarcoma tumors,” Tufts University, $84,083.

  • • “Evaluating a novel adjunct treatment for hemangiosarcoma,” University of Minnesota, $100,000.

  • • “Improving management of lymphocytic leukemia,” Colorado State University, $100,000.

  • • “Improving diagnosis and treatment of a severe bleeding disorder,” Iowa State University, $10,800.

Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics

Event: Annual meeting, Feb. 5, Orlando, Florida

Awards: Shomer Award in Veterinary Ethics: Dr. Albert S. Dorn, Knoxville, Tennessee, for important contributions to the field of veterinary medical ethics. A 1965 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Dr. Dorn is professor emeritus of small animal surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. He co-founded and served as the second president of the SVME, helping to produce the original constitution and bylaws for the society, and revisions to the bylaws in 2005. Dr. Dorn was a member of the AVMA Judicial Council from 1991–97, serving as chair from 1996–97. While on the council, he helped revise the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics. From 1998–2000, Dr. Dorn served as Personal and Professional Development Section manager on the AVMA Convention Education Program Committee. He is a past chair of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Curriculum Committee and a past member of the SVME Program Committee. Student Essay Award: Adeyemi Olayide Abbraham, University of Ilorn, Nigeria, for “Burnout, compassion fatigue, and the future of our profession.”


Dr. Albert S. Dorn

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902


Dr. William Folger

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 252, 8; 10.2460/javma.252.8.902

Officials: Drs. Don DeForge, Milford, Connecticut, president; Marthina Greer, Lomira, Wisconsin, president-elect and secretary; John Wright, St. Paul, Minnesota, treasurer; Lynn Bahr, Roswell, Georgia, parliamentarian; and William Folger, Houston, immediate past president

American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

Following the certification examination it held Nov. 10–11, 2017, in Denver, the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists welcomed 13 new diplomates—two of them certified in 2017 in two categories—and recognized two diplomates who previously were certified and became dual-certified in 2017. The college also conferred honorary member status on Dr. Qijing Zhang, Ames, Iowa. The new diplomates are as follows:


Emma Jane Kelly, Springville, Utah

* Owais Khan, College Station, Texas

Constanze Kirchgaessner, Berlin

Sonja Kittl, Bern, Switzerland

**Yung-Yi C. Mosley, West Lafayette, Indiana Flavien Ndongo Kasse, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec

**Domenico Santoro, Gainesville, Florida Marianne Schneeberger, Einigen, Switzerland


**Yung-Yi C. Mosley, West Lafayette, Indiana

**Domenico Santoro, Gainesville, Florida Kerry Sondgeroth, Laramie, Wyoming


Vincenzo Lorusso, Paris

Yoko Nagamori, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Jessica Y. Rodriguez, Rio Hondo, Texas

Adriano F. Vatta, Richland, Michigan


* Abdul G. Lone, Pullman, Washington Sivakumar Periasamy, Albany, New York

*Dr. Khan was previously certified in virology and Dr. Lone was previously certified in bacteriology/mycology.

**Drs. Mosley and Santoro were certified in both bacteriology/mycology and immunology in 2017.


The Feb. 15, 2018, JAVMA News article “Mental health, well-being problem serious, not dire: study” incorrectly stated the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study showed that women are more likely than older male veterinarians to experience serious psychological distress. The rest of the statement was correct, that younger veterinarians, both male and female, are more likely than older male veterinarians to experience such distress.

Obituaries AVMA member AVMA honor roll member Nonmember

Jenks S. Britt

Dr. Britt (Auburn ‘70), 72, Bowling Green, Kentucky, died Jan. 14, 2018. A diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, he was a professor and former head of the Western Kentucky University Department of Agriculture prior to retirement in 2008.

Following graduation, Dr. Britt moved to Russellville, Kentucky, where he was a partner at Logan County Animal Clinic for more than 20 years. He then joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison, serving as a clinical assistant professor until he joined WKU in the late 1990s. He served on the AVMA Council on Education from 1995–2001, chairing the council from 2000–01.

A past president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, he developed a bovine embryo transfer technique that helped advance beef and dairy management. Dr. Britt was a member of the American Dairy Science Association and National Mastitis Council. He was named AABP Bovine Practitioner of the Year in 1992 and Kentucky Veterinarian of the Year in 1993, and received the Auburn University Wilford S. Bailey Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009 and AABP-Merck Animal Health Mentor-of-the-Year Award in 2011. He was also a past recipient of the Auburn University El Toro Award for excellence in food animal medicine and was named to the Cattle Production Veterinarian Hall of Fame.

In retirement, Dr. Britt consulted for the dairy industry.

Dr. Britt is survived by his wife, L. Kathy; three sons; seven grandchildren; his mother; and a brother and a sister. Memorials may be made to State Street United Methodist Church, 1101 State St., Bowling Green, KY 42101, or Parkinson's Foundation, 200 SE 1st St., Suite 800, Miami, FL 33131.

R.L. Collinson

Dr. Collinson (Colorado State ‘42), 99, Los Altos, California, died Feb. 8, 2018. He owned a small animal practice in Mountain View, California, prior to retirement. Earlier, Dr. Collinson practiced large animal medicine in Wyoming and Missouri, and mixed animal medicine in Turlock and Modesto, California.

Dr. Collinson was a founding director of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, serving on the board from 1995–2005 and as chair from 1995–2000. He was a past president of the American Animal Hospital Association and California VMA, and a past member of the former AVMA Council on Public Relations and the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, chairing the latter in 1989. In 2001, Dr. Collinson received the AVMA Award for distinguished contributions to the advancement of veterinary medical organizations, and, in 2008, he was honored with the CVMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is survived by his son, Dr. James M. Collinson (Colorado State ‘74), a small animal veterinarian in Los Altos, California, and two grandchildren.

Martin R. Dinnes

Dr. Dinnes (California-Davis ‘66), 77, Agua Dulce, California, died Dec. 12, 2017. A charter diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine, he was the founder of Dinnes Memorial Veterinary Hospital, a zoo and aquatic animal practice in Santa Clarita, California. Early in his career, Dr. Dinnes served as resident veterinarian for the former Africa USA park in California. He established Telinject USA, inventing and developing the Telinject system for remotely injecting reptiles, mammals, and birds. Dr. Dinnes also co-founded the International Zoo Veterinary Group, a freelance zoological veterinary practice working with zoos, aquariums, and parks worldwide. In 2000, he was awarded the University of California-Davis Alumni Achievement Award, and, in 2014, he was the charter recipient of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians' Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Dinnes is survived by his family.

Donald F. Goetsch

Dr. Goetsch (Iowa State ‘45), 94, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, died Feb. 20, 2018. He began his career with the former Bureau of Animal Industry, inspecting poultry in Iowa, New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota, for two years. Dr. Goetsch subsequently went into large animal practice in Buffalo, Minnesota. In 1950, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he worked for Corn States Serum Company for three years. Dr. Goetsch then practiced large animal medicine in St. Cloud, Minnesota, before moving to California, where he was in small animal practice at the Green Dog and Cat Hospital in Los Angeles. He retired in 1988.

Dr. Goetsch is survived by three children and eight grandchildren. Memorials may be made to Ingomar United Methodist Church, 1501 W. Ingomar Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, or World Vision Water, P.0. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063, www.worldvision.org/our-work/clean-water.

Fineas G. Hughbanks

Dr. Hughbanks (Kansas State ‘67), 75, Gooding, Idaho, died Feb. 12, 2018. From 1984 until retirement in 2012, he practiced mixed animal medicine, focusing on small animals, at Gem Veterinary Clinic in Gooding. Following graduation, Dr. Hughbanks worked a year in Attica, Kansas, before moving to Idaho, where he practiced in Caldwell for a brief period. He later bought the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Boise, Idaho, and went on to establish the Les Bois Veterinary Hospital in Boise, eventually expanding his services to the May, Idaho area. Dr. Hughbanks also owned a cattle ranch, with a special interest in Salers cattle.

He was a past president of the Gooding Chamber of Commerce, active with the Gooding School District, and a member of the Rotary Cub. Dr. Hughbanks is survived by his wife, Nancy; two daughters and two sons; six grandchildren; and eight siblings. Memorials may be made to Wycliffe Bible Translators, 11221 John Wycliffe Blvd. #1, Orlando, FL 32832.

Lance F. Karcher

Dr. Karcher (Cornell ‘85), 60, Westbury, New York, died Jan. 28, 2018. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, he was in equine ambulatory practice with his wife, Dr. Sarah M. Darish (Cornell ‘85), for the past 30 years. Early in his career, Dr. Karcher practiced mixed animal medicine in Boonville, New York. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, his mother, and a sister and a brother.

James L. Kastens

Dr. Kastens (Kansas State ‘57), 84, Wichita, Kansas, died Jan. 12, 2018. A small animal veterinarian, he owned Indian Hills Animal Clinic in Wichita prior to retirement in 1997. Following graduation, Dr. Kastens served two years as a captain in the Air Force. He then moved to Wichita, where he worked briefly for the Department of Agriculture before establishing his practice.

Dr. Kastens' wife, Pat; five daughters; seven grandchildren; and a sister survive him. One daughter, Dr. Valerie K. Archibald (Kansas State ‘93), is a small animal veterinarian in Holladay, Utah.

Memorials may be made to Church of the Resurrection, 4910 N. Woodlawn, Wichita, KS 67220; Center of Hope Homeless Prevention Assistance Program, 400 N. Emporia, Wichita, KS 67202; or Kansans for Life, 7808 Foster St., Overland Park, KS 66204.

William V. Lumb

Dr. Lumb (Kansas State ‘43), 96, Fort Collins, Colorado, died Feb. 3, 2018. Following graduation, he served in the Army Veterinary Corps for three years. After completing an internship and residency at the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Dr. Lumb worked in the small animal clinic at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. He subsequently moved to Fort Collins, where he taught small animal medicine and surgery at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

From 1958–60, Dr. Lumb served on the veterinary faculty of Michigan State University, teaching in the small animal clinic and conducting research. He then returned to Colorado State, and, in 1963, was named director of the surgical laboratory at the university's Foothills campus, where he developed a graduate teaching and research program in surgery and anesthesiology. He retired from the university as professor emeritus in 1980. In retirement, Dr. Lumb briefly taught anesthesiology at Ross University in St. Kitts, West Indies.

He was a founding diplomate and a past president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, and a founding diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia. Dr. Lumb authored the books “Small Animal Anesthesia” and “Veterinary Anesthesia.” He consulted with faculties of veterinary medicine in Kenya, Libya, and Sudan and served as an external examiner.

Dr. Lumb's received several awards, including the AVMA Gaines Award in 1965, Academy of Surgical Research's Jacob Markowitz Award in 1987, Colorado Veterinarian-of-the-Year Award in 2001, and ACVS Founders' Award for Career Achievement in 2008. His wife, Lilly; a son; and two grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to Native American Cultural Center Assist Fund, Colorado State University, P.O. Box 1870, Fort Collins, CO 80522, or Kansas State University Foundation, 1800 Kimball Ave., Suite 200, Manhattan, KS 66502.

David N. Scarr

Dr. Scarr (Kansas State ‘46), 96, Barboursville, West Virginia, died Feb. 16, 2018. He retired in 1986 as chief of the food animal disease branch in the Office of Surveillance and Compliance of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Scarr practiced large animal medicine in West Concord, Minnesota. In 1967, he joined the FDA in Washington, D.C., as a veterinary medical officer.

In retirement, Dr. Scarr volunteered with the branch of consumer affairs in Virginia's Fairfax County and with Offender Aid and Restoration of Fairfax County. He was an Army veteran of World War II.

Dr. Scarr's four sons and a daughter, 10 grandchildren and four stepgrandchildren, one great-grandchild and five stepgreat-grandchildren, and a sister survive him. Memorials may be made to the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 101 Trotter Hall, Manhattan, KS 65506.

Bobby J. Shackelford

Dr. Shackelford (Auburn ‘64), 83, Bolivar, Tennessee, died Oct. 6, 2017. He owned Shackelford Veterinary Clinic in Bolivar, where he initially practiced mixed animal medicine, focusing later on small animals. Dr. Shackelford was a lifetime member of the Tennessee VMA and a past member of its executive board. He served on the Hardeman County Board of Health and the executive board of the Hardeman County Chamber of Commerce. In 2014, Dr. Shackelford was honored by Hardeman County Adoptable Animals for his work with the organization. He was a veteran of the Army.

Dr. Shackelford is survived by his wife, Judy; a son and a daughter; five grandchildren; and two sisters. Memorials may be made to Christian Veterinary Mission, 19303 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98133.

Kunwar K. Srivastava

Dr. Srivastava (DUVASU University ‘64), 77, Auburn, Alabama, died Jan. 25, 2018. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, he was a professor of laboratory animal medicine and attending veterinarian in the Department of Pathobiology at the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine prior to retirement in 2017.

Following graduation from DUVASU University's College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry in Mathura, India, and after earning his master's in immunology (1969) and doctorate in immunochemistry (1971) from the University of Georgia, Dr. Srivastava joined the Tuskegee veterinary college as a research associate in the Department of Microbiology. He subsequently served as an assistant faculty fellow in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, before joining the Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine at the University of North Carolina as a veterinary microbiologist.

From 1977–81, Dr. Srivastava was department head of animal maintenance at Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River, New York. He later served as manager of laboratory veterinary services at Lederle for a few years before rejoining the veterinary faculty at Tuskegee in 1984 as an assistant professor and director of laboratory animal medicine.

Dr. Srivastava was a member of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners. He is survived by his wife, Urmila; two daughters; and four grandchildren.

Lori Tapp

Dr. Tapp (Florida ‘86), 58, Black Mountain, North Carolina, died Nov. 20, 2017. She was head of the Veterinary Medical Technology Program at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, North Carolina.

Dr. Tapp is survived by her husband, Gary, and their families.

John E. Willson

Dr. Willson (Cornell ‘54), 88, Essex, Connecticut, died Dec. 13, 2017.

Following graduation, he served as a first lieutenant and medical bacteriologist with the Army in Frederick, Maryland. Dr. Willson subsequently did an internship while serving as a staff member at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. He then embarked on a career in the pharmaceutical industry, initially working for Pfizer Inc., and, later, for more than 30 years at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. During his time with Johnson & Johnson, Dr. Willson served as a senior pathologist, assistant director and manager of its research foundation, and corporate director of animal care and use for its corporate office of science and technology.

Active in organized veterinary medicine, he was a past member of the AVMA House of Delegates representing New Jersey, a member of the Society of Toxicology, a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences, and past board member of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research. Dr. Willson also served on the Bernard Townships Board of Health and on the board of trustees of Raritan Valley Community College. He is survived by his wife, June; two daughters and a son; and two grandchildren. Memorials may be made to the Essex Meadows Employee Appreciation Fund, 30 Bokum Road, Essex, CT 06426, or Theodore Roosevelt Association (designated for the Gable TRA Journal Fund), P.O. Box 719, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.

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