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IN SHORT

EDITED MICE PRODUCE SINGLESEX LITTERS

Researchers in the United Kingdom edited mice to consistently breed for all-male or all-female litters.

In a scientific article published Dec. 3, 2021, in Nature Communications, scientists from the Francis Crick Institute and the University of Kent reported that, by breeding genetically modified mice, they were able to select for single-gender litters by inducing early embryo death among the undesired gender. They see potential to use such editing to improve production when one gender of animal is needed and, in doing so, reduce animal culling in research and agriculture.

“In summary, we present a 100% effective method for achieving offspring sex ratio selection and/or generation of sex-specific phenotypes in offspring, which is in principle applicable to any species with differentiated sex chromosomes,” they wrote.

The team used CRISPR-Cas9 editing to target an essential DNA replication and repair factor, topoisomerase 1. The article states that, in mice, disrupting that enzyme causes embryonic death at a size of 4-16 cells.

The researchers wrote that the litters were 61%-72% the size of controls, rather than 50%, because the early deaths of unwanted embryos provided more room for survival of desired ones.

The article, “CRISPR-Cas9 effectors facilitate generation of single-sex litters and sex-specific phenotypes,” is available at jav.ma/genderselection.

AVMA OFFERS RESOURCES FOR PET DENTAL HEALTH MONTH 2022

The AVMA has developed a variety of resources for National Pet Dental Health Month in February that also are available year-round to promote dental health in cats and dogs.

Resources for pet owners are at avma.org/petdental. The materials consist of an overview of pet dental health, including information about the use of anesthesia during veterinary dentistry, videos on periodontal disease and toothbrushing, and a quiz on pet dental health.

A veterinary toolkit on pet dental health, available only to AVMA members, is at jav.ma/dentaltoolkit. The toolkit starts with clinic materials such as a flyer, handout, and brochure. Publicity and marketing resources are under the headings of stress-free ways to celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month as well as promotion and marketing ideas, publicity tools, and talking points for media interviews.

The veterinary toolkit also offers posts and images to share on social media.

EVERYCAT HEALTH FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES $200,000 IN GRANTS FOR FELINE HEALTH STUDIES

In December 2021, the EveryCat Health Foundation announced $222,128 in funding, in partnership with the George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust, for the following eight feline health studies:

  • “Impact of the secondary bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (ursodiol) on the feline gut microbiota and metabolome.”

  • “The role of microbial indole catabolites of tryptophan in host-microbiome cross-talk in cats with chronic enteropathies.”

  • “Prospective evaluation of unlicensed GS-441524–like antiviral therapy for treatment of feline infectious peritonitis.”

  • “The prognostic value of circulating galectin-3 in feline heart failure.”

  • “Non-genetic enhancement of feline adipose mesenchymal stromal cell immunomodulation with adenosine-loaded nanoparticles.”

  • “Precision medicine genomics for cats,” using the new cat reference genome (continuation).

  • “Investigating pectus excavatum in cats using rigorous phenotyping and population-scale high-throughput sequencing.”

  • “Determining the genetics underlying diabetes mellitus in the domestic cat.”

The shifting landscape of noncompete agreements

Veterinarians who are practice employees or owners must navigate various considerations

By Katie Burns

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A noncompete agreement might, for example, restrict a veterinarian who quits a small animal practice from working in that field for two years in the area that produces 85% of the practice's revenue.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 3; 10.2460/javma.260.3.283

Across the country, noncompete agreements have long been a fact of life for many veterinarians.

Generally, noncompete agreements restrict employees who quit a job from working in that field for a specific time period in a certain geographic area. Under such an agreement, veterinarians employed at an animal hospital in a small college town might not be able to work nearby if they tried switching jobs.

For practice owners, noncompetes prevent employees from leaving a practice and setting up shop across the street, taking clients along with them.

Increasingly, noncompete agreements have been falling out of favor among government policymakers at the state and national levels.

In Massachusetts, there is a bill that would ban noncompetes specifically for veterinarians. The bill was introduced by petition of Dr. Ilene Segal, past president of the Massachusetts VMA and former owner of Parkway Veterinary Hospital near Boston, where she continues to practice. Massachusetts bans noncompete agreements for physicians, nurses, psychologists, and certain other professionals. Dr. Segal said veterinarians got left out.

At the national level, the Federal Trade Commission held a public workshop in January 2020 titled “Non-Compete Clauses in the Workplace: Examining Antitrust and Consumer Protection Issues.” In July 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on promoting competition that included encouraging the FTC “to curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses and other clauses or agreements that may unfairly limit worker mobility.”

WORKER MOBILITY

Dr. Segal said the Massachusetts VMA polled its members to see who would be supportive of a bill to ban noncompetes for veterinarians. Among 58 respondents, 55 were in favor of banning noncompetes, and three were opposed.

“Let's say you live in a community, and you’re married with kids, and your kids are in the school system, but maybe your practice gets sold, or management changes,” Dr. Segal said. Or maybe you could earn more money or get more vacation by changing jobs. “You don't necessarily want to have to move out of your community where you’ve established yourself and your children and your home—or drive two hours to get to work.”

“You don't necessarily want to have to move out of your community where you’ve established yourself and your children and your home—or drive two hours to get to work.”

Dr. Ilene Segal, past president, Massachusetts VMA

Dr. Segal would not have been able to open her practice in 1996 down the road from where she had been working had she had a noncompete agreement. She would not want one of her employees to do the same, but she said practice owners should have a conversation with employees to figure out what would make them happy before they leave.

The Massachusetts VMA sent a letter to legislators supporting the bill to ban noncompetes for veterinarians. According to the letter, “Not only do non-compete agreements stifle the industry by limiting innovation, competition, and freedom of movement, but they also result in substantial anxiety and fear of litigation in many veterinarians who have entered such agreements as a requirement of their employment.”

A new Massachusetts law took effect in 2018 that, among other things, prohibits noncompete agreements for low-wage workers and limits the length of the agreements to 12 months. The law does not apply to agreements made in connection with the sale of a business, as in Dr. Segal's case. Her noncompete is for two years within a 25-mile radius of the practice. For other employees at the practice, the noncompete agreements are for 5 miles.

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards asked members, on behalf of AVMA News, whether their jurisdictions have any restrictions on noncompete agreements in veterinary medicine. The AAVSB members who responded indicated that noncompetes are not the purview of veterinary state boards and that their jurisdictions don't have any restrictions specific to veterinary medicine, but some states do have limits on the agreements generally.

Three states—California, North Dakota, and Oklahoma—ban noncompetes altogether for employees.

“Noncompete agreements came about to allow employers to share sensitive data, trade secrets, customer lists, to basically build their businesses,” said Dr. Lance M. Roasa, president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association. “As noncompete agreements grew up in the law, they were seen as allowing employers to invest in employees, to invest in trade secrets, and not be fearful that that investment would be stolen.”

Dr. Roasa owned 11 veterinary practices and had a law practice before recently becoming a full-time legal consultant and continuing education author for the Veterinary Information Network and for Drip Learning Technologies, also known as drip.vet. His law office handled dozen of noncompete agreements every year, and he usually was on the employee's side. Everything is negotiable, even with a corporate practice, he said.

Noncompete agreements have become tenfold more sophisticated in the past four to five years with the labor market tightening and with private equity–backed money coming into veterinary medicine, Dr. Roasa added. He even sees noncompetes in states where the agreements are not enforceable.

“Both sides have rights,” Dr. Roasa said, and there is a line between what is reasonable and what is not.

He said the trend is for state legislatures to step in with new laws regarding noncompete agreements. Some states prohibit noncompetes for employees earning less than a certain amount, and some states limit the length of the agreements.

For practice owners, the best protection is actually a nonsolicitation agreement, Dr. Roasa said. Such an agreement might say an employee will not solicit clients that the employee met at the practice for a period of two years after leaving the practice.

Lawyers have ways to write nonsolicitation agreements that are pretty onerous, Dr. Roasa noted. For example, a no-service provision says a former employee cannot serve the old practice's clientele. If clients from the old practice happen to walk in to the new practice, the former employee is supposed to turn them away, regardless of who contacted whom first.

Dr. Roasa emphasized that it is up to prospective employees to negotiate regarding restrictive covenants such as noncompete agreements and nonsolicitation agreements. He said, “The devil is really in the details on these.”

EMERGENCY DOCTOR

Dr. Beth Davidow, a diplomate of the American College of Emergency and Critical Care, owned an emergency and specialty practice in Seattle. She and her three partners sold the practice to a larger group, and she and one partner stayed on as owners. The legal agreement included language saying that if the larger group sold the practice, individual members could not object to the terms of the sale.

When the group sold the practice to another larger organization, Dr. Davidow was handed a new, five-year noncompete stating that she could not work at or for any emergency or specialty practice in North America.

Eighteen months after the second sale, Dr. Davidow decided to leave the practice, but she had two kids in school, a husband with a job, and a house, and she couldn't work in her specialty for another three and a half years. Therefore, despite her specialty certification, she became a relief veterinarian in general practice.

She thinks shortages of veterinary specialists and emergency veterinarians, especially in larger metropolitan areas, might be partly attributable to people waiting out noncompetes.

“Emergency and critical care doctors don't have clientele,” she said. ”You see whatever walks in to see you, but you aren't building relationships usually in a way that you are trying to keep clients who will always come to see you.”

Dr. Davidow, who blogs on veterinary issues at vetidealist.com, petitioned her former employer so she could take a faculty job in emergency and critical care at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, Washington, a 4 1/2-hour drive away and far from anywhere her former employer has a practice. She works from home three weeks a month. Then, one week a month, she drives to Pullman and stays in an apartment so she can work in person. She decided to stay at the job after her noncompete ended.

A new law in the state of Washington took effect in 2020 that, among other things, prohibits noncompete agreements for employees who make less than $100,000 annually and limits the length of the agreements to 18 months. The law does not apply to agreements made in connection with the sale of a business, however.

Dr. Davidow said, “If you’re an emergency veterinarian right now, there is absolutely no reason to sign a contract with a noncompete because there are so many jobs out there.”

She does think noncompetes originated for a reason. She knows of a multispecialty and emergency clinic where a group of specialists left and opened a new hospital 3 miles down the road. The new hospital was hugely impactful for the old one, but both hospitals did survive.

BUILDING GOODWILL

Veterinary services are built on relationships, said Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, a veterinarian and lawyer who heads the consulting firm Veterinary Business Advisors. Practice owners pay veterinarians partly to build that goodwill. Dr. Lacroix said most employers don't really understand the nuances of noncompete agreements, though.

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Dr. Lance Roasa, president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, emphasized that it is up to prospective employees to negotiate regarding restrictive covenants such as noncompete agreements.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 3; 10.2460/javma.260.3.283

One component of a noncompete is the scope of activity, which needs to be as narrow as it can be. For a small animal practice, the scope shouldn't be veterinary medicine but, rather, small animal practice, whether at a brick-and-mortar clinic or through a mobile operation.

The second component of a noncompete is the geographic area, which should be where 85% to 90% of the practice's revenue comes from.

The third component is the time frame. Restrictive periods tolerated by the courts generally don't exceed two years for employees.

“The legal community is becoming less and less tolerant of noncompetes,” Dr. Lacroix said. She continued, “People are saying we need to protect the consumer seeing the veterinarian that they want, and we don't want veterinarians to have to move out of their community because the community needs those veterinarians.”

Veterinary Business Advisors suggests practices should rotate clients through all the veterinarians so the clients are bonded to the practice.

For veterinarians negotiating a noncompete, Dr. Lacroix recommends getting legal advice. She said veterinarians like to think they are jacks of all trades, but the interpretation of any legal documents should be done with the advice of a legal professional who knows how to read these documents.

“But here's the thing: I think that owners should change their operations to help secure their goodwill rather than relying solely on noncompetes,” Dr. Lacroix added. “Relying on noncompetes should be an ancillary reliance, not the main reliance.”

Racetrack safety regulations submitted for federal review

Rules on anti-doping and medication control will roll out later

By Malinda Larkin

Some new rules for horse racing that aim to bring greater uniformity, safety, transparency, and efficiency to all state racing jurisdictions will go into effect by July 1. But other rules, specifically those on anti-doping and medication control, will likely roll out later because of a breakdown in negotiations.

The draft regulations were put forth by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority—an independent, nongovernmental entity created by the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. HISA has been tasked with approving and implementing racetrack safety standards and rules along with uniform anti-doping and medication control regulations, drafted under the leadership of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

This past May, HISA announced its nine-member board of directors and members of standing advisory committee, who included prominent equine veterinarians. With the board's approval, the Racetrack Safety Standing Committee of HISA formally submitted draft regulations on racetrack safety to the Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 6, 2021, for review and public comment, after which the FTC will publish final regulations with an effective date of July 1, 2022. The Racetrack Safety Standing Committee had previously received input from a broad range of regulators, experts, other industry stakeholders, and the general public.

MEDICATION AND TESTING

The Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee of HISA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency have released drafts of an anti-doping and medication control protocol for stakeholder review. The draft regulations address the protocol, list of prohibited substances, standards for laboratories, testing and investigation standards, and arbitration procedures.

Plans were to start the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program in July. Under an alternative proposed structure, out-of-competition testing for racehorses would be administered under HISA's jurisdiction, while race-day testing would remain under the jurisdiction of state regulators until the beginning of 2023, then transition to HISA's jurisdiction, according to a Dec. 7, 2021, press release.

Other facets of the phased approach to anti-doping and medication control developed by HISA and USADA would allow for the following:

  • A less disruptive transition to race-day testing from the middle of the racing season to the beginning of a new season.

  • State racing commissions to synchronize budget cycles more easily.

  • Laboratories more time to adapt to new standards.

  • Greater opportunities for additional education on the new procedures and protocols.

  • More thorough testing and implementation of needed new technology solutions.

FINDING A NEW ORGANIZATION

HISA said in the release that it had intended to file final draft rules for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program with the FTC by the end of 2021. However, on Dec. 23, HISA announced the suspension of negotiations pertaining to USADA's potential future role as the independent enforcement agency for the program. HISA is now searching for a new independent agency to replace USADA and anticipates this process will allow the full implementation of the final anti-doping and medication control rules in early 2023.

According to a Dec. 23 statement from USADA, “We are deeply disappointed to announce that we have been unable to reach an agreement with the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority for USADA to become the enforcement agency for the anti-doping and medication control program for thoroughbred racing under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. After months of negotiations, we have been unable to enter an agreement in line with the requirements of the Act, and one which would have given us a reasonable chance to put in place a credible and effective program. While we are obviously saddened by the outcome at this stage, we tried our absolute best to find a way forward but without success.

“While we desperately tried to reach an agreement to implement the program, without compromising our values, we have always said the passing of the legislation and the finalization of uniform, robust rules are huge victories for the horses and the equine industry. We are honored to have been involved with these efforts to restore the integrity of thoroughbred horse racing. Though we are unsure what the future holds for USADA—if any—in this effort, we have offered to assist the Authority and others in the industry to ensure that the sport gets the program it needs and that the horses deserve.”

HISA board chair Charles Scheeler said in a release, “We are deeply grateful for USADA's hard work, expertise, and leadership in working with HISA's Anti-Doping and Medication Committee to develop comprehensive draft rules in a remarkably short period of time. HISA will continue our search for an independent enforcement agency to oversee the Medication Control protocols. The Authority will also work with the FTC to ensure the Racetrack Safety Program advances on schedule. When operational, the program will provide critical enhancements to protect the health and safety of equine and human athletes.”

The urgency of the work by HISA was further made clear after the horse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit, collapsed and died following a workout on Dec. 6, 2021, at Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles. The 3-year-old colt—whose title is under review by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission because he tested positive afterward for betamethasone—died suddenly from a heart attack, according to trainer Bob Baffert, who has since been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

The Santa Anita Park veterinary team immediately took blood, hair, and urine samples from the horse and sent them to the California Horse Racing Board. A full necropsy was to be performed. Santa Anita has faced scrutiny in the past for spikes in Thoroughbred deaths resulting from racing or training injuries. The track shut down for most of March 2019 after 23 Thoroughbreds died in a span of three months.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners supported the creation of HISA and has a handful of members on HISA committees, though the AAEP had also pressed for greater representation of veterinarians in the regulatory process.

TRAINER AT CENTER OF HORSE-DOPING SCHEME SENTENCED

Trainer Jorge Navarro was sentenced to 60 months in prison recently for his leading role in the felony drug misbranding and adulteration charges that came from a federal investigation into the abuse of racehorses through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. He was also ordered to pay over $26 million in restitution, according to a Dec. 17, 2021, announcement from Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Federal prosecutors arrested Navarro along with several veterinarians, trainers, and other horse racing professionals in March 2020. Of the 27 defendants, 19 were charged in an indictment detailing conspiracies “to manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses” in New York state, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and the United Arab Emirates, according to court documents.

Navarro imported misbranded “clenbuterol” that he both used and distributed to others, avoided explicit discussion of PEDs during telephone calls, and worked with others to coordinate the administration of PEDs at times that racing officials would not detect such cheating. Among Navarro's PEDs were various “blood building” drugs, which, when administered before intense physical exertion, can lead to cardiac issues or death, court documents state.

“Trainers, like Navarro, who participated in the schemes stood to profit from the success of racehorses under their control by earning a share of their horses’ winnings, and by improving their horses’ racing records, thereby yielding higher trainer fees and increasing the number of racehorses under their control,” according to the announcement. “Veterinarians, including those whom Navarro directed in the corrupt administration of illegal substances, profited from the sale and administration of these medically unnecessary, misbranded, and adulterated substances.”

Donors increase aid to Tuskegee students

Veterinary college received millions in pledges to help make profession more equitable

By Greg Cima

Corporate and nonprofit donors pledged millions of dollars in 2021 to help Tuskegee University veterinary students pay for their education at the historically Black university.

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Dr. Ruby L. Perry

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 3; 10.2460/javma.260.3.283

Dr. Ruby L. Perry, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the amount of money given by industry partners increased substantially since 2020 as these veterinary businesses and organizations saw a need to reduce inequality and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within veterinary medicine. Their gifts will help the veterinary college extend four-year scholarships and provide other financial and career support for veterinary students.

“This level of giving has led to the college's ability for the first time in our history to extend multiple four-year scholarships and other impactful scholarships as well as enhanced programming and student support services,” Dr. Perry said.

Dr. Perry is also co-chair of the AVMA and American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges’ joint Commission for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Veterinary Profession.

The biggest commitments this past year toward financial aid for Tuskegee veterinary students were $3.6 million pledged by Idexx, $400,000 from the Synchrony Foundation of the Synchrony financial services company, $250,000 from the Regions Foundation of Regions Financial Corp., $175,000 from pet food company Royal Canin, $75,000 from Merck Animal Health, and $30,000 each from Hill's Pet Nutrition and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

The AVMF and Hill's gifts follow a $45,000 endowment from Hill's, announced in September 2020, that established a new scholarship program sponsored by the AVMF and Hill's.

Jay Mazelsky, Idexx president and CEO, had said in a Feb. 2, 2021, press release announcing the Idexx pledge, “The past 10 years have seen tremendous growth in the diversity of the pet-owning population. Ensuring all pets have access to the highest standard of care in their communities starts with advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine.”

“These industry partners are actually making a significant difference to students of color,” Dr. Perry said. According to Tuskegee's veterinary college, it has educated more than 70% of the nation's Black veterinarians since its founding.

Many students arrive at Tuskegee at a financial disadvantage in comparison with peers across all veterinary colleges, often coming from families that are unable to provide the same level of financial support, Dr. Perry said. The veterinary college works to help those students achieve their dreams despite an uneven playing field.

As reported in the Dec. 1, 2021, issue of JAVMA, the educational debt of Tuskegee's veterinary graduates has grown by a mean of 9.7% annually during the past 20 years, according to figures from the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division. That average is the highest among graduates from all AVMA Council on Education–accredited veterinary colleges in the U.S., who together had a mean increase in educational debt of 5.5% annually since 2001.

Recent graduates who are Black also reported having the highest average debt and the lowest percentage of their education costs covered by financial support from their families, according to AVMA data. Graduates who are Hispanic or Latino reported the second-highest debt and second-lowest financial support from family.

Those who are underrepresented in veterinary medicine by race or ethnicity accounted for 22.2% of veterinary students in 2021, according to the 2020-21 AAVMC annual data report. Tuskegee, by far, had the greatest percentage of URVM students, comprising 76.1% of its student body. Of the 227 veterinary students enrolled at the historically Black university, 134 were Black, 54 were white, 33 were Latino or Hispanic, and six were Asian. The second-highest population of URVM students at a veterinary college was at Western University of Health Sciences at 48.6%.

Dr. Perry said most students at Tuskegee's veterinary college rely heavily on student loans for tuition, living expenses, and education-related fees. The university has already distributed about $251,000 in scholarships from the recent donations, she said.

“The scholarship funds not only help students with these expenses, but these funds also help to reduce our students’ debt loads and the amount of stress that's incurred from having such heavy financial responsibility,” Dr. Perry said. “In addition to monetary awards, some of the scholarships also provide recipients with access to internship and mentorship programs at various veterinary hospitals.

“These programs allow our students to broaden their knowledge and skill sets and provide possible job opportunities.”

Overall donations to veterinary colleges appear to have remained level from 2020-21. Jeffrey S. Douglas, now-retired chief communications officer for the AAVMC, said philanthropy remained stable as a percentage of college budgets from 2020-21 at member institutions.

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Tuskegee veterinary students practice surgical techniques. (Courtesy of Tuskegee CVM)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 3; 10.2460/javma.260.3.283

PLATFORM USES FACIAL RECOGNITION TO REUNITE LOST PETS WITH OWNERS

By R. Scott Nolen

A free national online database for lost and found pets that uses facial recognition technology is the latest tool helping reunite animal companions with their owners.

More than 1,800 animal shelters and rescues have joined Petco Love Lost since it launched this past April, said Susanne Kogut, president of the nonprofit Petco Love. Just over 2,000 pets and owners were reunited between July and December 2021 thanks to the database.

The artificial intelligence–based platform works like this: The owner of a lost cat or dog uploads photos of the pet to the website lost.petcolove.org along with contact information. Facial recognition technology determines whether a match is at a participating shelter. Initial results usually take less than a minute.

When a person finds a lost pet, the individual can upload an image of the animal to the Petco Love Lost website to learn whether it matches a missing animal in the database.

Kogut sees the database as a complement to microchipping rather than a competitor. “We’re big fans of microchipping pets. It's one more way of identifying pets,” she said.

The database currently contains photos of approximately 111,000 animals. Kogut hopes news of Petco Love Lost will continue spreading, not just within the animal sheltering community, but among veterinarians and the public as well.

“We want photos of all the shelter animals uploaded to our system. That is step one,” Kogut said. “The real potential happens when the general public uses it. Someone finds a lost dog or cat, they upload a picture to our database, and they’re almost immediately put in touch with the owner.”

Several businesses and organizations have endorsed Petco Love Lost, including the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

APHIS to resubmit horse soring rule

National Academies report says only veterinarians should inspect horses

By R. Scott Nolen and Malinda Larkin

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in December announced it is withdrawing a proposed regulation concerning detecting soring in certain performance horses in light of a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Dec. 13, 2021, Federal Register notice stated the proposed amendment to the Horse Protection Act does not sufficiently address the National Academies review of methods for detecting soreness in horses. Moreover, the proposal is more than five years old, and APHIS says it would likely need to update the underlying data and analyses supporting the proposed change. The report emphasized that veterinarians should be the only ones to diagnose pain in these performance horses and, thus, conduct the inspections for soring.

“Therefore, for these reasons, we are withdrawing the July 26, 2016, proposed rule … and will issue a new proposed rule that incorporates more recent findings and recommendations, including the NAS report,” the agency stated. “The new rulemaking process will allow the public to comment on these and other important issues before the rule is finalized.”

IN THE PAST

Soring is the practice of applying a substance or mechanical device to a horse's forelegs that will create enough pain that the horse will exaggerate its gait to relieve the discomfort. The resulting high-stepping running walk, or “big lick,” is rewarded by horse show judges, although showing a sored horse is illegal.

Tennessee Walking Horses commonly suffer from the practice of soring, according to the AVMA. Other gaited breeds, such as Racking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses Rocky Mountain Horses and Missouri Fox-Trotters, may also suffer from soring.

Although widely condemned as inhumane, soring nevertheless continues despite more than 50 years of enforcement at shows.

Currently, horse show managers can voluntarily hire USDA-trained lay inspectors, known as designated qualified persons, chosen by certain horse industry organizations. The USDA also has its own veterinary medical officers who perform inspections at some venues, but they attend less than half of these events.

Typically, an inspector will palpate the front legs of a horse to see whether the horse reacts in pain and to look for other abnormalities. Among other things, the inspector looks for compliance with the ”scar rule,” which means the horse's legs should show no evidence of scarring that is indicative of soring, such as missing hair, scars, or cuts.

Noncompliance with the Horse Protection Act continues to occur, even as recently as the 83rd annual Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the biggest event for these horses, which occurred Aug. 27 through Sept. 4, 2021, in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Out of 582 horses inspected by designated qualified persons, 53 were found HPA noncompliant. Out of 135 horses inspected by USDA veterinary medical officers, 39 were found HPA noncompliant.

In 2016, APHIS sought to crack down on violators by proposing changes to enhance inspections and strengthen enforcement at shows covered by the HPA. As the agency continued its deliberations on a final rule, APHIS and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry requested that the National Academies oversee an independent study to help ensure that HPA inspection protocols for compliance with the scar rule are based on sound scientific principles that can be applied with consistency and objectivity.

SUGGESTED CHANGES

Dr. Jerry Black, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biological Sciences, chaired the Committee to Review Methods for Detecting Soreness in Horses that put together the report, which largely comprised other noted equine veterinarians. The report, published in January 2021, contained several science-based recommendations regarding revisions to APHIS’ Horse Protection Act program and associated regulations.

According to the report, differences in training and experience account for the discrepancies between inspections done by APHIS veterinarians and designated qualified persons, who are mostly nonveterinarians licensed by horse industry organizations that host shows.

The report recommends inspections only be administered by veterinarians, bringing back the use of thermography, and researching the potential use of facial expressions—or a grimace scale—for pain assessment purposes. If budget constraints necessitate the use of third-party inspectors, they should be trained by APHIS, evaluated, and screened for conflicts of interest. The report also recommends specific information and methods that inspectors should learn in their training.

Dr. Susan White, a committee member and professor emeritus of large animal medicine at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke during a Jan. 13, 2021, briefing on the report. She said that the existing law should be better adhered to as the “inspection process was so variable and, in many instances, did not follow the rules and regulations that exist now.”

The report also advises that the scar rule should be revised and based on what can be accurately assessed by a gross examination during an inspection.

Dr. Pamela E. Ginn, a committee member and an associate professor and senior pathologist in the Department of Comparative Diagnostic and Population Medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, also spoke at the briefing. She said the language for the scar rule is outdated, and for the rule to be legally binding and defensible, it has to be updated.

Finally, the decision to disqualify a horse from a show should also be driven by an experienced veterinarian, such as a veterinary medical officer, according to the report. This decision should be made on the basis of not only a diagnosis of local pain where a horse is touched but also a thorough assessment of the horse's gait and other signs such as excessive restlessness, weight shifting, or pointing a front limb.

Dr. Sarah le Jeune, another committee member and chief of the Equine Integrative Sports Medicine Service at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, added at the briefing, “What we’re looking at is improving animal welfare— and, in this case, equine welfare—and that the diagnosis of pain really is something that should be driven by veterinarians, and hopefully this report will put it back into that direction.”

The National Academies report, “A Review of Methods for Detecting Soreness in Horses” is available at jav.ma/NAS.

DRUG APPROVED TO TREAT DOGS FOR CHEMOTHERAPY-RELATED DIARRHEA

By Greg Cima

Food and Drug Administration officials granted conditional approval in mid-December for the oral prescription drug Canalevia-CA1, the first drug with an approval to treat chemotherapy-induced diarrhea in dogs. The delayed-release tablets contain crofelemer, which is also used to treat diarrhea in people who are undergoing antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a Dec. 21, 2021, announcement that diarrhea is a common side effect of chemotherapy in dogs, and it can be so severe that treatment must be halted.

“Chemotherapy drugs often have potential side effects, but, unlike in human medicine where patients may be willing to tolerate some discomfort in exchange for a potential cure, the primary purpose of cancer treatment in dogs and other pets is to extend survival without sacrificing quality of life and comfort,” Dr. Solomon said in the announcement. “This new medication provides veterinarians and dog owners with another tool to help control the side effects of chemotherapy for dogs undergoing such treatment.”

Dr. Cheryl London is a veterinary oncologist, a research professor, and associate dean of research and graduate education at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and her work is unconnected with Canalevia-CA1. She said few other treatments are available for dogs with chemotherapy-related diarrhea, and none are very successful.

Those include probiotics, over-the-counter products, and the antimicrobial metronidazole, and administering the latter also increases the risk of selecting for antimicrobial resistance, Dr. London said.

Canalevia-CA1 gained the conditional approval through a marketing pathway for minor uses in major species, a designation that allows drug companies to sell a drug for a condition affecting a small portion of an animal population while continuing to gather evidence of its effectiveness. A company needs to demonstrate the drug is safe and show it is reasonable to expect the drug will be effective prior to conditional approval, and the drug sponsor needs to gain full approval within five years to keep selling the drug.

FDA officials said a study of 24 dogs provided a reasonable expectation of effectiveness. A dog was considered a treatment success if its diarrhea resolved and didn't recur during the three-day study. The agency announcement states that nine of the 12 dogs in the treatment group no longer had diarrhea, in comparison with three of the 12 dogs in the control group. In laboratory and field studies, the most common side effects were abnormal feces, decreased appetite and activity, and vomiting, the announcement states.

APHIS ANNOUNCES $16M IN FUNDING TO PROTECT ANIMAL HEALTH

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Dec. 9, 2021, that it is awarding more than $16.3 million to 64 projects with states, universities, and other partners to strengthen programs to protect animal health in 2021.

The funding supports projects focused on enhancing vaccine distribution plans and supporting animal movement decisions in high-consequence animal disease outbreaks, delivering outreach and education on animal disease prevention and preparedness, and developing point-of-care diagnostic tests to rapidly detect foreign animal diseases. The funding also supports projects to enhance early detection of high-impact animal diseases and improve emergency response capabilities at veterinary diagnostic laboratories that are part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

The 2018 farm bill provided funding for these programs as part of an overall strategy to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the United States and to reduce the spread and impact of potential disease incursions. This is the third year that APHIS is providing this Farm Bill funding.

APHIS is awarding $7.6 million for 36 projects through the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. In one project, the American Association of Equine Practitioners will increase biosecurity and disease prevention in the horse industry by identifying current gaps in biosecurity knowledge and developing and tailoring outreach efforts to audiences at horse races, horse shows, farms, stables, trail rides, and horse events. In another project, the University of California-Davis is working with two Hispanic-serving community colleges to develop a new curriculum on biosecurity in animal agriculture that will integrate with existing programs.

APHIS is awarding $4.4 million for 21 projects through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. In one project, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will improve the preparedness of swine producers and veterinarians against African swine fever by providing the resources they need to produce quality laboratory submissions.

APHIS is awarding $4.3 million for seven joint NADPRP-NAHLN projects. Among these are projects to support development or evaluation of point-of-care diagnostic tests for the virus that causes African swine fever, for avian influenza virus and avian paramyxovirus type 1, and for the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease.

The full list of the NADPRP projects is at jav.ma/nadprp2021, and the full lists of the NAHLN and joint projects are at jav.ma/nahln2021.

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In one project recently funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the American Association of Equine Practitioners will work to increase biosecurity and disease prevention in the horse industry.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 3; 10.2460/javma.260.3.283

STUDY REVEALS VETERINARIAN PREPAREDNESS DURING PANDEMIC

By R. Scott Nolen

Did veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other members of the animal care industry feel prepared to provide essential services in the midst of a pandemic?

A study to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Health Security offers the first look at individual perceptions of this often-overlooked segment of the medical workforce during a large-scale public health crisis.

“For veterinarians and animal care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, this was really about showing up, despite the risks to themselves and the crazy workload,” said Dr. Meghan Davis, one of the study authors and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Psychosocial, Organizational, and Environmental Total Worker Health Center in Mental Health.

The center was established in the fall of 2021 with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to focus on work-related mental health issues and solutions. The center will focus on health care workers and veterinarians, front-line and essential workers, and workers spanning the food system, according to a Johns Hopkins press release.

The POE Center is one of four new hubs funded by NIOSH that focus on research and practice related to worker health. The first-year award to Johns Hopkins is $1.4 million. The total award, spanning five years, is expected to be nearly $7 million.

While there is no shortage of research measuring disaster preparedness among first responders and human health care providers, the same cannot be said for animal care workers.

“We wanted our study to parallel with the veterinary animal care workforce what has been done many times with the human health care and public health responses to the pandemic and disasters,” Dr. Davis said.

Dr. Davis and her team surveyed more than 1,500 animal care workers nationwide between July and October 2020 about perceived risks and roles during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey sample included veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary hospital managers, as well as animal shelter and animal control employees, wildlife facility workers, and others.

Researchers applied the “ready, willing, and able” model commonly used to assess workforce preparedness. As Dr. Davis explained, “ready” measures a group's training, “willing” their desire to respond, and “able” their skills and access to resources.

What the data show are respondents in leadership positions and age 40 or older scored higher in all three areas than younger respondents not in leadership. Moreover, being in a position of leadership and age had the strongest associations with lower perceived risk from the pandemic and improved job efficacy and confidence.

Most respondents considered co-workers as the most likely source of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, followed by clients or visitors and then the general public. Most respondents also cited mental health issues as a secondary consequence from the pandemic. The POE Center has funded a follow-up study focused on veterinarian mental health that will launch early this year.

A majority of respondents reported having no barriers to work during the pandemic. For those who did, personal concern for family or a dependent topped the list, followed by physical or mental health barriers. The most common professional concern cited was a lack of management support.

Dr. Davis hopes the findings will be used to target intervention and training efforts to support the more vulnerable members of the animal care workforce.

“The take-home message is response preparedness in this sector can be improved by targeting younger workers not in leadership roles in support programs that center on improving job efficacy and confidence in safety protocols,” she said.

“Managers can support their teams by taking steps to improve and communicate safety measures for SARS-CoV-2 and to address the widespread concerns for mental health in the profession that our participants reported,” Dr. Davis added.

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AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF FELINE PRACTITIONERS

The American Association of Feline Practitioners held a hybrid in-person and virtual annual conference from Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2021, with the in-person portion in Phoenix. The theme of the conference was “Feline Anesthesia, Analgesia, & Surgery.”

2022 is the 10th anniversary of the AAFP's Cat Friendly Practice Program, designed to elevate care for cats by reducing stress for cats, caregivers, and veterinary teams. The AAFP Cat Friendly Certificate Program is available for individuals within the veterinary community. Information on the programs may be accessed at catvets.com.

The new AAFP officials are Drs. Michelle Meyer, Sterling Heights, Michigan, president; Kira Ramdas, The Woodlands, Texas, president-elect; Colleen Currigan, Chicago, treasurer and AVMA alternate delegate; Kelly St. Denis, Brantford, Ontario, immediate past president; Marcus Brown, Arlington, Virginia, AVMA delegate and director; and directors—Drs. Ken Lambrecht, Madison, Wisconsin; Cathy Lund, Providence, Rhode Island; Paula Monroe-Aldridge, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Dale Rubenstein, Germantown, Maryland; Tammy Sadek, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Ashlie Saffire, Dublin, Ohio.

WORLD SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY ASSOCIATION

The 46th World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Community Congress was held virtually, Nov. 13-15, 2021.

The congress attracted more than 1,300 attendees. It highlighted the work of the association's clinical committees and members in creating global guidelines and related educational activity with the aim of raising the standards of companion animal veterinary care around the world. The program included a WSAVA flagship Shaping the Future session, “Telemedicine: Practice Saver or Ethical Dilemma?” The session featured an expert debate on the impact of telemedicine on global veterinary practice.

The new WSAVA officials are Drs. Siraya Chunekamrai, Bangkok, president; Ellen van Nierop, Quito, Ecuador, vice president; John de Jong, Weston, Massachusetts, honorary treasurer; Shane Ryan, Singapore, immediate past president; and board members—Drs. Felisbina Queiroga, Vila Real, Portugal; Jim Berry, Fredericton, New Brunswick; and Walt Ingwersen, Dundas, Ontario.

Visit avma.org/news/community to read the full reports from these organizations, including awards.

In Memory

DAVID N. CHANCELLOR

Dr. Chancellor (Texas A&M ’75), 70, Bristol, Texas, died Aug. 17, 2021. He practiced small animal medicine at Ennis Veterinary Clinic in Ennis, Texas, for 40 years prior to retirement in 2020. Earlier in his career, Dr. Chancellor worked in Texas at Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. He also worked at a livestock sale barn in Waxahachie, Texas. Dr. Chancellor's wife, Jana; a daughter and a son; three grandchildren; and a sister survive him. Memorials may be made to FirstLook Pregnancy Clinic, 1204 Ferris Ave., Suite E, Waxahachie, TX 75165.

DOUGLAS G. DEDRICK

Dr. Dedrick (Cornell ’61), 84, East Aurora, New York, died June 2, 2021. From 1980 until retirement in 1993, he owned East Aurora Veterinary Hospital. In retirement, Dr. Dedrick owned a mobile spay and neuter clinic. Earlier in his career, he practiced in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts; served as a captain in the Air Force Veterinary Corps; and owned Hinkley Veterinary Hospital in Buffalo, New York.

Dr. Dedrick founded and served as president of the Greater Buffalo Veterinary Emergency Clinic, was a past president of the Buffalo Academy of Veterinary Medicine and Western New York VMA, and was a past director of the North American Veterinary Community. He is survived by a daughter, a son, a stepdaughter, five grandchildren, and a brother and a sister. Memorials may be made to the Delevan-Yorkshire Public Library, 28 School St., Delevan, NY 14042, or Baker United Methodist Church, 345 Main St., East Aurora, NY 14052.

IVAN W. FAVRET

Dr. Favret (Michigan State ’72), 72, Detroit, died June 3, 2021. Following graduation, he joined La Fond Veterinary Hospital in Detroit, subsequently taking ownership of the practice. Active in his community, Dr. Favret was the recipient of a Spirit of Detroit Award. His brother survives him.

KENNETH A. HARKEWICZ

Dr. Harkewicz (Pennsylvania ’81), 68, Crockett, California, died Aug. 26, 2021. Following graduation and after completing an externship in wildlife medicine in Australia, he practiced exotic animal medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Dr. Harkewicz later practiced at Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital in Berkeley, California. He also served as a consultant in reptile and amphibian medicine for the Veterinary Information Network. Dr. Harkewicz was a past president of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. He is survived by his wife, Florence, and his family.

DARRELL W. KINNARD

Dr. Kinnard (Texas A&M ’74), 76, Mabank, Texas, died Sept. 8, 2021. He owned a mixed animal practice in Mabank. During his career, Dr. Kinnard also served as an externship trainer at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and as a preceptorship teacher at Oklahoma State University, Kansas State University, and Ross University. A member of the Texas VMA, Dr. Kinnard served on its executive board and several of its committees. In 1996, he was named TVMA Food Animal Practitioner of the Year. Dr. Kinnard was honored as TVMA General Practitioner of the Year in 2012.

Active in his community, he served on the board of trustees of the Mabank Independent School District and was a member of the Mabank Chamber of Commerce, Cedar Creek Chamber of Commerce, and the Mabank Development Corp. Dr. Kinnard is survived by his wife, Jennie; two daughters and a son; eight grandchildren; and two sisters and a brother. Memorials may be made to the Mabank ISD Education Foundation, 310 E. Market St., Mabank, TX 75147, or First Baptist Church of Mabank Benevolence Fund, 113 E. Mount Vernon St., Mabank, TX 75147.

KENNETH C. LOPER

Dr. Loper (Georgia ’54), 95, Lenoir City, Tennessee, died Sept. 13, 2021. Following graduation, he joined the Army, serving as a food inspector with the rank of first lieutenant. Dr. Loper subsequently established Sykesville Veterinary Clinic in Sykesville, Maryland, where he practiced for more than 30 years. He then worked as a food inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Minnesota and North Carolina.

Dr. Loper was a member of the Maryland VMA. He was a past president of the Rotary Club in Sykesville. Dr. Loper is survived by a daughter, four sons, 11 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, two brothers, and a sister. A son, Dr. Daniel C. Loper (Georgia ’93), is also a veterinarian. Memorials may be made to the American Parkinson Disease Association, P.O. Box 61420, Staten Island, NY 10306, or Alzheimer's Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601.

MICHAEL P. MURPHY

Dr. Murphy (Illinois ’77), 69, Decatur, Illinois, died Oct. 17, 2021. He practiced small animal medicine in Decatur for 44 years. Dr. Murphy is survived by his wife, Lynn; two sons; and five grandchildren.

LIRIA T. RIERA-SEIVANE

Dr. Riera-Seivane (Ross ’00), 48, Jacksonville, Florida, died Aug. 10, 2021. A small animal veterinarian, she began her career in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, where she worked for 14 years. Dr. Riera-Seivane subsequently practiced at Deltona Animal Clinic in Deltona, Florida. She then worked at Jacksonville Community Clinic for three years. Dr. Riera-Seivane had practiced at Jacksonville Pet Clinic for the past three years. She is survived by her parents and two brothers.

WAYNE E. STOCKTON

Dr. Stockton (Michigan State ’55), 90, Rochester, Michigan, died Sept. 16, 2021. Following graduation, he served in the Air Force. Dr. Stockton subsequently practiced at Kelly Veterinary Hospital in Detroit for 34 years. His wife, Ruth; two daughters and a son; eight grandchildren; a great-grandchild; and a brother survive him. Memorials may be made to Lincoln United Methodist Church, 101 E. Main St., Lincoln, MI 48742, or Ferndale Free Methodist Church, 1950 Woodward Heights, Ferndale, MI 48220, ferndalefmc.com.

MARCUS J. SUPPO

Dr. Suppo (Ross ’97), 52, Greenwich, Connecticut, died June 18, 2021. Following graduation, he bought Mamaroneck Veterinary Hospital in Mamaroneck, New York, where he practiced small animal medicine. Dr. Suppo later moved to Connecticut and established Stamford Veterinary Center and Pet Lodge in Stamford. He subsequently merged his practice with a multipractice group and continued to work in Connecticut at North Torrington Veterinary Hospital in Torrington, Greenwich Veterinary Center in Greenwich, and Valley Veterinary Hospital in New Milford. Dr. Suppo is survived by his wife, Lis; three sons; his mother; and two sisters.

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