1995 - 2005

Published on September 16, 2015
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Just days before the publication of an April 1, 1996, JAVMA article reminding veterinarians not to sensationalize bovine spongiform encephalopathy, British officials announced a link between BSE and the human brain malady Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Seven years later, in early December 2003, the nation’s first domestic case of BSE was discovered in Washington state.

Zoonotic disease and terrorism figure prominently in the pages of JAVMA News from 1995-2005. A Nov. 15, 1999, article on West Nile virus, which emerged in the northeastern United States that summer, profiled Dr. Tracey McNamara, who as head of the pathology department at the Bronx Zoo in New York City was instrumental in identifying the exotic pathogen. “Basically, we have a new virus looking for a home. It’s never been here before, and it’s going to keep everyone very busy for a long time,” Dr. McNamara said at the time. By the fall of 2002, WNV had spread to all but seven U.S. states and killed close to 150 people.  

On Jan. 26, 1998, Dr. Samuel E. Strahm, American Veterinary Medical Foundation chairman; Elizabeth Dole, president of the American National Red Cross; and AVMA President John I. Freeman signed a memorandum of understanding encouraging the AVMA and AVMF to be the leaders in coordinating companion animal disaster relief efforts.

Also that year, chronic wasting disease, another type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, was discovered in Wisconsin deer. Then in 2003, monkeypox virus arrived in the U.S. via a shipment of African rodents, and severe acute respiratory syndrome emerged in China and Vietnam. The next year, the global community wrestled with the potential for a flu pandemic wrought by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza.

With the terrorist attacks of 9/11 came a new urgency to protect the homeland from agricultural and biological threats. AVMA President James Brandt wrote in the Oct. 15, 2001, JAVMA, “It is paramount that every veterinarian be prepared to offer expertise in the defense of our way of life.”  

It is paramount that every veterinarian be prepared to offer expertise in the defense of our way of life.”

AVMA President James Brandt following the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Ensuing news articles described how veterinarians were helping to identify the strain of anthrax mailed to members of Congress and the news media and caring for the search-and-rescue dogs deployed on 9/11.

During the decade between 1995 and 2005, JAVMA tracked the debate within the veterinary profession over the humane treatment of animals against a backdrop of an increasingly bold—and sometimes violent—animal rights movement.

In July 1999, the AVMA encouraged practitioners to advise clients about the pain and risks of canine ear cropping and tail docking. Later, the Association called pain and suffering “clinically important conditions that adversely affect an animal’s quality of life.” As the terrorist organization Animal Liberation Front became more active, the legal status of animals as property was increasingly challenged; pregnant sow housing, horse slaughter, and induced molting of layer hens fell into controversy; and courts were petitioned to award emotional damages when a pet dies as a result of negligence. By late 2004, the AVMA created an Animal Welfare Division to focus on such matters full time. 

Dr. Rick Linnehan, pictured during a training exercise, was a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia in June 1996.

Much space was dedicated in JAVMA to articles about the rise of Internet veterinary pharmacies, advances in cloning, vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats, drug compounding, certifying foreign-trained graduates of non–AVMA-accredited colleges, and the human health impacts of antimicrobial use in food animals. Articles about gender, income, and student debt appeared frequently throughout the decade. A 1996 report predicted, “Assuming current trends continue, the number of female veterinarians will equal the number of male veterinarians by 2004.” (Women veterinarians outnumbered their male colleagues by 2009.)

Noteworthy profiles included Dr. Peter Doherty, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine for his revolutionary research in the field of immunology; veterinarian and astronaut Rick Linnehan; and Dr. Edwin J. Smith, who in 1950 treated a black bear cub injured in a forest fire that would go on to become the real-life Smokey Bear.