1965 - 1975

Published on September 16, 2015
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The face of the veterinary profession was changing.

General livestock practices were declining, marginal activities were poised to become the purview of assistants, and opposition to women in veterinary medicine was dissolving, according to a May 1966 article by Dr. Willis W. Armistead, dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. About 1,200 women would be in practice by 1975, when women would account for 5 percent of the profession and about 25 percent of veterinary students. 

Seven veterinarians were part of the Apollo 11 program, the first manned mission to land on the moon. Major Richard Boster (pictured at left in both photos), an Air Force veterinarian, exposed a variety of cold-blooded invertebrates and fish to lunar material.

The U.S. veterinary profession exceeded 20,000 members in 1969 and 30,000 in 1974. AVMA Editor-in-Chief Arthur Freeman wrote in the Feb. 15, 1974, issue of the JAVMA that veterinarians had become more numerous, conspicuous, involved in their communities, and vulnerable to criticism. He cited a rise in professional liability claims as evidence the public demanded flawless service.

In 1973, Dr. Donald A. Price, AVMA executive vice president, had written to newspaper editors with a rebuttal to a Parade magazine article “How good is your veterinarian?” that included anecdotes such as the (surely apocryphal) story of a veterinarian tying a dog in heat to his bumper to lure and capture male dogs and collect boarding fees.

The AVMA also sought public attention on topics such as rabies eradication and dog and cat population control. The Journal carried still images from the clay-animated slide show “Pethood or Parenthood,” commissioned by the AVMA for a 1974 campaign advocating surgical neutering.

Earlier, the AVMA had opposed early- to mid-’60s legislation that would give the federal government oversight of research animal care. The Association worried that such oversight would stifle research and asserted that animal care improvements were being made—to ensure experimental accuracy.

But Congress held hearings in September 1965 on dog and cat thefts by animal dealers; Sports Illustrated published in November 1965 the account of Pepper, a Dalmation who disappeared from a backyard and was euthanized following an experimental procedure at a hospital; and Life magazine published in February 1966 the feature “Concentration camp for dogs” on a Maryland dog dealer. By spring 1966, Congress was considering 18 bills that each would have the Department of Agriculture regulating the transportation, sale, and handling of dogs and cats for research and experimentation. 

Veterinary care of a dog during hostilities in Vietnam

The AVMA then advocated that any legislation focus on supervising unscrupulous dealers. The bill signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in August 1966 required licensure of cat or dog dealers, registration of research facilities, and humane treatment by both.

Racehorse Dancer’s image became in 1968 the first—and to date only— Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified as the result of a positive test for the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone. An editorial noted suspect statements by the attending veterinarian and his implication in other drugging scandals. 

The AVMA would later express support for the Horse Protection Act—signed in December 1970—with a statement to a congressional committee that soring to exaggerate the gait of walking horses is cruel, unnecessary, and objectionable.

Issues of the same era included reports from Vietnam, including a feature article on Army veterinarians’ work in Saigon to improve food production; medical care of dogs used as scouts, sentries, and trackers; an account of sentry dogs killed in a Viet Cong attack on an airfield; and a veterinarian killed when his Jeep struck an anti-tank mine.

In 1968, the JAVMA noted legislation to block student aid for those caught rioting or causing disruptions on campuses and to block federal research money to colleges and universities barring military recruitment on campus.

In other campus news, the National Conference of Student Chapters of the AVMA, which would later become the Student AVMA, formed in 1969.

The Journal also carried news of veterinarians’ contributions in developing precautions and quarantine procedures for lunar materials returned to Earth during the Apollo missions and in the areas of astronaut food quality, sample assessment, radiation monitoring, virology, and pathology.

Racehorse Dancer’s Image became in 1968 the first—and to date only—Kentucky Derby winner disqualified as the result of a positive test for the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone. An editorial noted suspect statements by the attending veterinarian and his implication in other drugging scandals.

And in Feb. 15, 1970, the AVMA published guidelines on training for animal technicians. An article from that year indicated 10 schools were offering technology training.