March 15, 2017


 I love a parade!

Posted March 1, 2017

With the presidential inaugural parade in full swing, Dr. Joe Kinnarney made his way down Pennsylvania Avenue from 4th to 18th streets, alongside horses ridden by young equestrians from an Indianapolis military academy. Dr. Kinnarney and two other representatives of the AVMA and its Political Action Committee, Drs. Larry Corry (2009-2010 AVMA president) and Gary Bullard (PAC board member), were spread out but within eyeshot of each other during the Jan. 20 event.

“Regardless of our political background, those of us who were there were there for AVMA. We weren’t there for politics. We were there to support the veterinary agenda,” said Dr. Kinnarney, AVMA immediate past president.

That evening, they traded their marching gear for tuxedos and headed to the bipartisan Ag Ball, where they met agriculture secretary nominee and veterinarian Sonny Perdue and talked with members of Congress, including a ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. Two days earlier, they met with Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida at a reception the veterinarian congressman hosted. 

Dr. Joe Kinnarney at the inaugural parade (Photo by Natalie Thomas, AVMA GRD consultant)

It was Dr. Vito DelVento who invited the AVMA officials to be in the parade and got them credentialed. As chief veterinary medical officer for the District of Columbia Department of Health, he oversees the diverse Animal Services program. He also is executive director of the D.C. Board of Veterinary Medicine. “We walked in the parade to be a set of hands, should something go wrong along the parade route with any of the horse groups,” he said. “We had 227 horses participate.” The service and police dogs fell under federal jurisdiction.

Animal Services employees spent three months planning, in collaboration with the Secret Service, Homeland Secur­ity, Metropolitan Police, and Metropolitan Fire and Ambulance Rescue teams. They worked out logistics for transporting horses in and out on Inauguration Day, with road and bridge closures. They oversaw each animal’s health certificate, vaccination status, and security clearance. They performed physicals and fitness checks the day before.

The horses arrived several days in advance, from as far as California, and were housed in Maryland at Prince George’s Equestrian Center. On parade morning, they were shipped in waves to L’Enfant Plaza in southwest D.C. Police dogs sniffed the tack and equipment for explosives before the horses were tacked up. Dr. DelVento said Homeland Security then checked each horse for indications of foul play, “any areas that would lead us to believe that something has been planted under their skin. So they’re looking for obvious signs of sutures or lacerations.”

Finally, the horses were wanded with a metal detector and taken to the “clean zone” that extended from the Capitol to the White House and placed in formation. Dr. Kinnarney said, “It was exciting to be behind the scenes and see how security worked, how we went from what they call a dirty zone to a clean zone.”

Drs. Andrew and Jayme Hennenfent assisted in the parade. As senior zoonotic epidemiologist for the D.C. DOH, Andrew led the epidemiology team that did human and animal surveillance. Jayme assisted as a D.C. State Animal Response Team veterinarian.

This being Dr. DelVento’s third inaugural parade, he has worked out some kinks. “We make certain there is plenty of hay and water available because it’s such a long day for the horses. We’ve had a dramatic reduction in incidences relating to horses being bored and getting anxious. I have two veterinary teams available that day, positioned at the beginning and end of the parade route, mostly to help sedate horses and take the edge off, if need be, to prevent a much bigger problem if an animal gets frazzled and potentially becomes explosive.” Two equine ambulance teams were also at the ready.

“While this day’s events are going on, you need to stop and take in the moment,” Dr. DelVento said. “You realize the entire country’s watching, and you’re right in the middle of a historic moment.”