Archive for the ‘Horses’ Category

Pet trusts protect animals if they outlive their owners

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

According to the 2012 AVMA pet ownership survey, there are some 164 million cats and dogs in homes across the U.S., and attorneys Elizabeth Carrie and Robert Kass recommend that pet owners plan for the possibility that they may no longer be able to care for their animals. Naming a caregiver, providing detailed pet care instructions and dedicating money specifically to the pet’s care are all important parts of the plan, according to Kass and Carrie. Bundling all the essentials into a specific, separate trust is the best way to ensure the plan will be implemented in the manner the owner intends, they said. Fox Business

If you’re a parent, odds are you’ve thought about the unthinkable: Who will  raise your children if something happens to you? Who do you trust to love and  care for them the way you would? How do you provide the money needed and ensure  that it will be used properly?

These concerns also come into play if you become disabled, even temporarily.  Who can you depend on to step in until you recover?

Now consider this: there are three times as many households in the  U.S. that have pets than have children- 57%, according to the American  Veterinary Medicine Association’s 2012 survey.

Compared to the 28 million children living in this country, Americans own  more than 164 million cats and dogs. Adding birds to the mix brings the total to  nearly 181 million pets (not to mention horses, small animals, fish,  etc.).

For many of us, our pets are our “children.” And, if you want to know they  will be properly cared for in the event you can no longer do this yourself,  Detroit attorneys Robert Kass and Elizabeth Carrie stress that you need to take  some basic steps to ensure your wishes will be carried out.

Kass cites the case of a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.  Although her body wasn’t recovered for months, it took five days for co-workers  and neighbors to realize she was not just away on a trip, but actually missing.  During that time her cats were without food, water, and of course, their primary  human companion. “When the authorities finally went into her apartment, the cats  were crazed,” he says.

If no one steps forward to take in an animal that, for whatever reason, can  no longer be cared for by its owner, it is routinely taken to a shelter and put  up for adoption. That’s traumatic enough. Unfortunately, unless it is a “no-kill” shelter, if it isn’t adopted within a certain period of time, an  animal that was once your beloved pet, will be euthanized.

As Kass and Carrie point out in their book, Who Will Care when You’re Not  There?, the biggest mistake a pet owner makes is assuming she or he will  outlive her cat, dog, rabbit, African Grey. If you truly care about your pet,  that’s a pretty big risk. Depending upon your age and health, the life  expectancies of many species- parrots, for instance- make it very likely your  pet will outlive you.

Another potential disaster is assuming that your cousin (Fast) Eddie- who  always got along great with Fido on Thanksgiving visits- will: 1) know how to care for him (favorite toy, food allergies, medications, afraid of  thunder, etc.) and 2) be willing to do so, even when Fido grows old and  arthritic

While Eddie may, in fact, be an animal lover (he’s always been fond of the  horses- the Kentucky Derby and Belmont kind), there have been sporadic family  rumors about money problems. If you leave a bequest to cover the cost of Fido’s  care, are you certain Eddie will use it for this purpose?

In the event Eddie surprises the family and ends up being a flawless  replacement for you, what if he, himself, is incapacitated, hospitalized, or  dies? Naming a successor caregiver is essential, say Kass and Carrie.

There are various avenues you can take to provide for the care of your furry  and feathered “kids” if you become incapacitated. You can start with a Power of  Attorney, which, unlike a typical POA (which generally covers financial assets)  gives another individual the legal power to make decisions about your animal’s  care. This includes everything from moving it into their own home, to giving  them discretion to take it to the vet, and so forth. If the individual isn’t  familiar with the pet, it’s a good idea to attach an instruction sheet listing  the veterinarian and grooming names, the preferred type of food and any other  important notes about the pet to help it assimilate to a new home.

However, to be on the safe side, Kass and Carrie recommend creating a  free-standing trust, separate from the trust that deals with your material  possessions and human children. You can fund it with an amount of money that you  feel will cover the care of your pet(s) for the remainder of their lifetimes,  leaving anything that remains to, perhaps, a pet-affiliated charity. They  recommend using attachments to the trust since these can be easily amended as  your pets and the care they need change.

Ideally, you want to have an attorney with experience in pet planning and the  laws of your state draw up the documents. “If you can’t afford to do this,” says  Carrie, “ offers pet trusts online for less than $100.” This  document won’t be as customized, but it’s far better than nothing.

Consider everything you pet gives you- unconditionally and daily. Don’t you  want to be sure it will receive the care it needs if and when you’re not able to  provide it?

Ms. Buckner is a Retirement and Financial Planning Specialist and an  instructor in Franklin Templeton Investments’ global Academy. The views  expressed in this article are only those of Ms. Buckner or the individual  commentator identified therein, and are not necessarily the views of Franklin  Templeton Investments, which has not reviewed, and is not responsible for, the  content.

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Tips to maintain a healthy horse

Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Horses are excellent companions, but they have special needs that require an emotional and financial commitment, according to veterinarian Tricia Pugh, who shares 10 tips for protecting equine health. An enriching and safe environment, proper nutrition and adequate exercise, along with regular veterinary care, are important aspects of maintaining a horse’s health, writes Dr. Pugh. The Press-News (Minerva, Ohio)


Tricia M. Pugh, DVM, who provides veterinary services in Louisville, Ohio and  has provided “top 10 hints to keep your horse happy and healthy.

Dr. Pugh says, “Owning a horse can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience that most of us have dreamed about since we were young. We either grew up with horses or finally fulfilled that lifelong dream of being a horse owner. Like any investment, both economical and emotional, we want to protect it as much as possible. This involves following general guidelines to help assure your horse is happy and healthy!

“The guidelines are as follows:

1. Environment:   A healthy environment is very important to your horse. Providing your horse shelter with a stall, run-in shed, or thick group of trees allows them the opportunity to protect themselves from severe weather elements, such as intense hot sunshine or cold freezing rain. Dry footing, such as grass, dirt, rubber mats, saw dust, or straw ,provides good footing and a healthy environment for their hooves.

2. Wellness Physical Exams:  Physical examinations performed by a veterinarian are the cornerstone of any health care program. Even if the horse is not experiencing any problems, baseline information can be vital when determining if there are subtle changes. This data can be critical for diagnosing diseases that are just beginning or are intermittent and sometimes can be difficult to detect by owners who see the horse on a daily basis.

3. Human Interaction and Handling:  Routine handling of your horse is essential to their physical and mental health. Human interaction with your horse prepares it for a relationship with other humans and releases the tension when it comes time for the veterinarian to examine your horse for routine physical examinations or emergency situations.

4. Exercise: Just as Mother Nature designed the horse to eat on a nearly constant basis, she also built the horse for lots of constant movement. For horses housed in stalls, it is important that daily exercise is available. Adequate exercise leads to muscle development and gives the horse an outlet for energy to be released.

5. Hoof Care:  Regular trimming and/or shoeing by a qualified farrier are the keys to good hoof care. Horses have different rates of hoof growth, so the frequency between trimmings varies from horse to horse. Generally the time range is four to eight weeks for hoof trimming. Daily hoof care consists of picking out the hooves and monitoring for any signs of disease such as cracks or thrush.

6. VCPR:  Through a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship, your veterinarian is able to examine your horse and make recommendations related to specific disease prevention and health management needs. This is a value-added benefit for you as a horse owner and your horse. In the absence of a VCPR, you may be relying on advice from catalogs, feeds stores, internet blogs, or other sources who may not be familiar with the specific medical condition of your horse. Your veterinarian is an expert and is the most capable person to consult on the appropriate health care. The important relationship that your veterinarian has with you and your horse allows them to diagnose subtle changes in your horse’s physical condition. If left undiagnosed, these subtle changes, may progress to more serious problems, which could be difficult and costly to treat successfully. Preventative measures are generally more economical than paying for treatment for conditions that could have been prevented. Choose a veterinarian before  you find yourself in an emergency situation. A veterinarian already familiar with your horse can be a huge plus during an emergency.

7. Nutrition:  The equine digestive system is designed to constantly process large quantities of fibrous foods. Hay or grass is crucial to provide roughage for the horse’s digestive system. Grain may also be supplemented to provide additional energy if needed. Minerals should be provided via mineral blocks, loose mineral, or mixed in commercially available complete grain concentrates. Plenty of fresh water is crucial to your horse’s health as well. Consult your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for more specific individualized feeding recommendations for your horse.

8. Parasite Control:  Parasites have been and continue to be a problem for horses. When left untreated, these pesky worm parasites can cause everything from weight loss to a poor hair coat and can even lead to colic. Many dewormers have now become resistant to the worms in the pasture. With the help of your veterinarian, you can analyze your horse’s unique parasite risk profile to create an individualized deworming plan that fits their needs. The start of this program begins with a fecal egg count analysis to determine what level of parasitism exists in your horse before you administer the treatment.

9. Vaccinations:  Properly administered vaccinations are simply the safest, easiest, and most economical tools available to help prevent infectious diseases. Illness can take an enormous toll on you horse’s well-being and performance, and may even jeopardize its life. Vaccinating your horse at the right time, well before exposure to viral and bacterial disease, is extremely important. The core vaccinations that are recommended are Equine Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, West Nile Virus, tetanus and rabies. Some of the risk-based vaccines including Strangles and Potomac Horse Fever should be considered if the horses are exposed to new horses frequently or high risk environments.

10. Dental Care:  Teeth are a unique concern to horses. An oral examination should be an essential part of the annual wellness examination. Their teeth continue to grow unless worn down by opposing teeth. The horse’s top row of teeth naturally sit wider than the bottom so floating needs to be done to eliminate the points that develop. Occlusal equilibration (floating) refers to the routine maintenance of a horse’s mouth. This includes smoothing enamel points, correcting malocclusion (faulty meeting of the upper and lower teeth), balancing the dental arcades, and correcting other dental problems that can interfere with your horse’s ability to chew and subsequently digest his food. Your equine veterinarian will check for abnormalities in the mouth such as oral infections, masses, gum disease, tooth abscesses, etc., that can also affect the overall health and performance of the horse. Without treatment, dental and oral issues can lead to more serious conditions like gastrointestinal disturbances such as choke and colic.  Your equine veterinarian has the knowledge to understand and treat a dental condition that may affect your horse’s overall health.

At her practice, Dr. Pugh offers veterinary services for all patients large and small, with the focus being on large animals. She primarily cares for horses with a focus on equine dentistry, alpacas and llamas, goats and a few beef cows, sheep and pigsAppointments can be made for an ambulatory farm call or for the haul-in clinic. There is also a  haul-in large animal clinic which offers a clean facility, safe handling equipment such as horse stocks and a full working cattle runway and chute, a temperature-regulated setting, a comfortable waiting area, grass and dry lots for animals, a convenient location and a very large parking area for trailer maneuvering.Dr. Pugh was born into an active animal loving and raising family in Stark County. Dr. Trish (as she is often called) showed cattle, sheep and hogs in both 4-H and open shows and trail-rode horses during her childhood. She attended The Ohio State University, where she completed her bachelor of agricultural science degree in animal sciences. For her, it was an essential and logical step to obtain a veterinary education as a Buckeye at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Olympic horse used stem cell therapy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
The horse, competing at the 2012 London Olympics, was given the cutting-edge treatment to heal a possibly career-ending injury to one of its legs.
  • Ravel, a horse competing in dressage at the Olympics, underwent stem cell therapy to treat a leg injury.
  • Ravel is presently the highest-scoring horse on Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ravel, a horse competing at the 2012 London Olympics, underwent stem cell therapy treatment that helped heal a possibly career-ending injury to one of his legs, according to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California.

Ravel, a regular client of Rodrigo Vazquez of Equine Surgical Services at the center, is believed to be the first Olympian to benefit from a stem cell-based treatment. Ravel is now the highest scoring horse on Team USA at the Olympics.

“Ravel is a high-impact athlete,” Vazquez said. “He runs the same risks as any other athlete in a high performance sport and he gets hurt like any other athlete too. But he is something special. He works hard and he’s focused and he thrives in his sport. He just didn’t want to quit.”

The 15-year-old equine athlete, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, was united with his rider Steffen Peters in late 2006. Since then, the team has made history, with Ravel excelling in dressage, which is one of three Olympic equestrian disciplines. It involves riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility and balance.

Ravel and Peters were the highest placing American pair at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and have won numerous competitions over the years, including the prestigious Rolex/FEI World Cup in dressage.

 Before these victories, Ravel sustained the leg injury. Jessica Gercke, a spokesperson for the Helen Woodward Animal Center, told Discovery News that staff working with competitive horses like Ravel do not wish to reveal detailed information about medical conditions and treatments, since that might affect the perceptions of judges or others.

Vazquez, however, did share that regular check-ups, vaccinations, dentistry and the “emergency treatment with a new technology based on stem cell therapy” helped to heal Ravel after an eight-month break in training.

Adult stem cells can reproduce and differentiate into different types of cells. They continue to be a focus of study for scientists hoping to treat a number of diseases in humans and non-human animals. In horses, to repair cartilage and tendon tissues, scientists have been looking into stem cells derived from bone.

“Bone derived cells in horses are most often obtained from an aspirate (material drawn by suction) of either the hip or sternum with apparent minimal discomfort” to the horse, according to David Frisbie, an associate professor at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “The procedure typically takes less than 15 minutes and can be done standing under light sedation.”

Results of clinical studies on horses suggest that stem cell treatment can improve healing rates, overall outcomes, and decrease re-injury rates almost by half. Further studies are needed, however, to better determine dosage and timing specifics.

In the meantime, Ravel, Peters and Vazquez are all now in London. The horse’s performances so far this week are “textbook Ravel,” according to a report issued by the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. “The veteran went to work and moved through the test with ease.”

As of this writing, there is still hope that Ravel might win an Individual medal at the games.

Fifteen is a senior age for equine competitors at the Olympic level, so it is widely speculated that Ravel is close to the end of his competing career. No official announcement of his retirement has been made so far.

For now, Vazquez is hoping to watch Ravel bring home the gold.

Olympic veterinarians have varied duties

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Veterinarian Kent Allen, the foreign veterinary delegate for the 2012 Olympic Games, explains his role as well as the duties of the other veterinarians who work at the Olympics. Dr. Allen oversees all aspects of the equine athletes’ testing and pre-competition exams, while other veterinarians provide medical attention and perform diagnostic and drug-screening tests.

Kent Allen, DVM, was happy to hear from a reporter from

“I was going to call Stephanie [Church, editor-in-chief] and suggest that she do a story explaining what all the veterinarians at the Olympic Games do, but then you called,” he said.

Allen, who owns Virginia Equine Imaging in Middleburg, Va., is well known in the world of international equestrian competition. A preeminent sport-horse veterinarian and lameness diagnostician, he is a veteran of the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) Veterinary Committee who has served as a veterinary official at two Olympic Games (London 2012 will be his third) and at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Allen has also served as a U.S. Equestrian Team veterinarian and as a member or chair of numerous additional veterinary committees in the United States.

A major international equestrian championships requires several layers of veterinary personnel–and they don’t all necessarily do what you might imagine. Allen helped us to sort it out.

Titles and Duties

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Allen will be the foreign veterinary delegate.

“You know what a technical delegate is?” Allen asked. (A TD, sometimes known as a steward, is the official at a show who ensures that everybody plays by the rules.) “Well, I’m the veterinary technical delegate. [My job is] making sure everyone–veterinarians, ground juries, competitors, and so on–follows the rules as they pertain to the FEI veterinary rules.”

And as the job title suggests, the foreign veterinary delegate (FVD) must be of a nationality other than that of the host country.

The FVD has the important pre-Games role of working with the Olympic organizing committee (for London, LOCOG) to ensure that the “veterinary and medication control infrastructure,” to quote the FEI Olympic rules, is correct. Then in London, Allen will work closely with the five members of the Olympic equestrian Veterinary Commission, who together supervise the veterinary procedures of the entire competition.

An FEI-governed competition is conducted under FEI rules–and there are a lot of rules. The FEI Veterinary Regulations alone fill 90 pages, and as the Olympic FVD Allen has to know them all.

One rule that may surprise you: Veterinary officials, including the FVD, are “forbidden from hands-on veterinary care,” Allen said. Actual treatment of horses falls to the designated “treating veterinarian(s),” who may administer FEI-legal treatments with approval from the Veterinary Commission.

Also under the Veterinary Commission’s jurisdiction are the team veterinarians, who are appointed by the various national federations (in the U.S., the United States Equestrian Federation) to travel with the equestrian teams. The number of team veterinarians varies with the size of the team(s) being fielded. In the case of the U.S., which fields an Olympic team in every equestrian discipline, the dressage, eventing, and jumping horses each have their own team veterinarian. A nation that sends only, say, a jumping squad or a couple of individual competitors may opt to designate a sole team veterinarian.

Just Say No to Doping

Finally, there are designated testing veterinarians, whose job it is to take blood and urine samples from horses to screen for prohibited substances. This process, too, is supervised by the Veterinary Commission.

“Our job is to make sure the horse is appropriately tested,” Allen said. “Once the sample goes to the lab, it’s out of our hands.”

“At an Olympic Games, there’s a set number of samples you have to test,” Allen said. “Some of them have to be random.”

The LOCOG Veterinary and Farrier Services Guide warns that, at the 2012 Olympics, “The number of horses tested will be greater than at any previous Games.”  If you followed the equestrian events of the 2008 Olympics, you may recall that four jumpers tested positive for capsaicin, the “hot-pepper heat” substance; and also that the American dressage horse Mythilus tested positive for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). As a result, the Norwegian jumping team was stripped of its bronze medal and the U.S. dressage team failed to medal.

“It’s not a slap on the hand and a fine any more,” said Allen of the strict “FEI Clean Sport” anti-doping policy. “It’s getting to be more like [the anti-doping policies for] the athletes in other sports.”

Horse Inspections

The FEI Veterinary Commission’s most visible role may be in the veterinary horse inspections, also referred to as “the jog” or “the trot-up.”  For these formal presentations, athletes (usually the riders, but sometimes coaches) don their team garb and jog their horses in hand on a designated track so that the veterinary officials may assess what’s known as the horses’ fitness to compete.

All Olympic horses are inspected prior to the start of competition. Event horses are inspected again after cross-country, before show jumping. In London, jumpers will be reinspected before the start of competition and a third time prior to the individual final.

According to Allen, there is an important distinction between “fit to compete” and “sound.”

“What I do every day in my clinic in Middleburg is watch horses trot so that I can evaluate soundness,” he said. His goal in such exams is to arm prospective buyers with an expert opinion as to horses’ soundess, or to help owners figure out why their horses are lame and then to prescribe treatment.

But in an Olympic horse inspection, the Veterinary Commission has the tough job of deciding whether a horse is physically up to the demands of the competition.

Doing so can be easy: The horse trots sound and moves freely. He’s probably good to go. But what do you do when you watch a couple of event horses that completed cross-country yesterday and today look a bit off?

“They may be sore in the feet, and they may not look too sound,” Allen said. “I send them to the hold” for evaluation and possible re-presentation.

Here’s the part of the horse inspection that the public (and the media) aren’t privy to: the vets’ findings.

In our hypothetical case of the two unsound event horses, “One may be sore to hoof testers, but the second looks like a bowed tendon,” Allen said. “The first horse may be judged fit to compete” (he’s ouchy, but the problem is temporary and competition isn’t likely to worsen his condition), “while the second may not be permitted to compete” because of the tendon injury. “But the horse judged fit to compete may actually be lamer” than the one that’s “spun.”

“It’s a bit of a Catch-22,” Allen concedes of the process. “I’ve been the person standing on the line, wondering what’s going on. There’s no way to know unless you’re in that little knot of people,” he said, referring to the veterinary officials. He defends the process, however, saying that riders and horse owners have the right not to have horses’ every boo-boo made public.

(One thing that traditionally is public, however, is the inspection itself. LOCOG drew the ire of horse-sport enthusiasts when it announced that the final Olympic eventing horse inspection would not be open to spectators. After international outcry and the resignation of a high-ranking eventing and Olympic equestrian official, LOCOG reversed its decision.)

Ultimately, “the [equine] welfare standpoint is exhaustively done,” Allen said, referring to the painstaking research and planning that goes into the production of an Olympic Games, a World Equestrian Games, or similar competitions. “The organizers have knocked themselves out to make things safe for the horse, but no amount of planning can cover every eventuality. All the test events, the planning–the foremost issue is, is it safe for the horse?”

After all that, and fully aware of the effort and resources that have gone into getting a horse to that horse inspection, “If at all possible, you want to let that competitor compete,” Allen said.

Happily, when I watched the horse inspections at the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 WEG, most of the horses appeared fit to compete and passed easily. But a few were held for reinspection, and I remember one horse in Hong Kong that did not pass the first inspection, meaning that he never competed at all. The Veterinary Commission is well aware of the gravity of such a decision, but it has a duty to uphold the horse’s welfare above all.

New Disability Regulations Now Include Mini Horses as Guide Animals

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

By Elizabeth Harrington

June 26, 2012

Mona Ramouni, who is blind, rides a bus to work with her guide horse in Lincoln Park, Mich. Growing up in Detroit, Ramouni could never get a dog because her devout Muslim family considered dogs unclean. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio/File)

( – Although the Justice Department has extended  the deadline for America’s hotels to comply with regulations regarding  handicap access to swimming pools, new Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) guidelines are already being applied at miniature golf courses,  driving ranges, amusement parks, shooting ranges and saunas.

Among the provisions in the “Revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design,” which went into  effect on March 15, is one requiring businesses to allow miniature  horses on their premises as guide animals for the disabled. Another  limits the height of slopes on miniature golf holes.

“The new standards, for the first time, include requirements for  judicial facilities, detention and correctional facilities, and  recreational facilities,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said during a conference in Baltimore on June 7.

“We expect the implementation of these accessibility standards to  open up doors for full participation in both the responsibilities, such  as jury duty, and the benefits, such as playing at city parks, of civic  life for people with disabilities,” he said.

“Miniature horses were suggested by some commenters as viable  alternatives to dogs for individuals with allergies, or for those whose  religious beliefs preclude the use of dogs,” the rules state.  Also  mentioned as a reason to include the animals is the longer life span of  miniature horses – providing approximately 25 years of service as  opposed to seven years for dogs.

“Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have  flown commercially with their miniature horses,” the Justice Department  notes.

“Similar to dogs, miniature horses can be trained through behavioral reinforcement to be ‘housebroken,’” it adds.

However, “Ponies and full-size horses are not covered.”

A business owner can deny admission to a miniature horse that is not  housebroken, whose handler does not have sufficient control of the  animal, or if the horse’s presence compromises “legitimate safety  requirements.”

The miniature horse addition has come under the scrutiny of at least  one member of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who offered an  amendment that passed the House, banning funding to implement the  provision. Chaffetz penned an editorial last month in opposition to the  rule entitled, “Horses in the Dining Room?

Olympic horses arrive in Longon via FedEx

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Ten elite U.S. equine athletes arrived in London from Newark, N.J., via a special FedEx flight during which the animals were accompanied by the American eventing team’s veterinarian Brendan Furlong, as well as grooms. The animals are acclimated to world travel and usually arrive without incident, but the animal care team is always ready to intervene quickly if a horse gets nervous during transport

By Danica Kirka

They didn’t have to absolutely, positively get them there overnight, but when the U.S. Equestrian Federation sent some of its horses to London for the Olympics, it was a special delivery.
The elite U.S. three-day eventing equine squad landed in London on Monday on a FedEx flight, having taken the red eye from Newark, N.J. They’re not the first competitors to arrive as the countdown to the games clicks to less than 40 days away, but they are among the most pampered.

“They are all special,” said Tim Dutta, who owns the international horse transport company that organized the trip. “We are working on everybody’s dream.”

Bringing these elite athletes across the Atlantic Ocean is a logistical feat – one small example of the many people and efforts under way behind the scenes to make the games go off without a hitch. This is particularly true for horses — the only animals that take part in the games, which start July 27 and end Aug. 12.

Let’s just start by saying that these 10 are not just any old group of horses. These animals have passports that would be the envy of any human wishing to travel the world. That said, they get used to traveling, and most of the time, they don’t ask for much — not even an in-flight meal.

But grooms traveling with Twizzel, Mighty Nice, Arthur and the other seven horses that made the journey would maybe give them a bit of hay.

Horses like these can move in their boxes quite a bit, unlike human sardines on regular flights. But in case any of them gets bothered by the noise, the grooms might stuff some cotton in their ears, says Dr. Brendan Furlong, the veterinarian for the American eventing team.

Carrots are always a good way to calm any horse who gets nervous — or even a horse tranquilizer in the rare case a prized animal gets really edgy. The goal is to get them to London stress-free.

As for the grooms, the vet, and the other humans that cater to these pampered prancers, well, they aren’t exactly going first class. Furlong says he’ll usually ask the pilots to keep the plane kind of cool, so sometimes this crowd finds itself wrapped in blankets to keep warm. There’s no in-flight movie, so jokes about whether they choose between “Seabiscuit” or “War Horse” don’t really cut it.

“It’s not a job for the faint of heart,” Furlong said. “You need to have someone who is a very confident flier and who can intervene quickly to calm a stressed horse.”

After all, 1,200 pounds of stressed horse can be an intimidating prospect.

Furlong says the crews are usually very accommodating — and always want to come back even briefly to see their precious cargo.

But even these horses didn’t escape Britain’s strict rules on quarantine. Furlong arranged to have a farm near Newark International Airport set up as a special quarantine area to comply with the U.K.’s rules – though admittedly the cherished 10 only needed five hours of intense scrutiny to meet the criteria. Nothing but the best for this crowd. Really.

But do they know — do the horses know that it’s the Olympics? That it’s a special event that happens only every four years?

Dutta swears they do.

“They’re athletes,” Dutta said of horses that jump big big fences and run oh so fast. “They love what they do.”

Animals Help People in Interesting Ways

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

You’ve seen police on horseback or drug-sniffing dogs. But those aren’t the only animals with jobs that help their cities. From the most adorable lawn-mowers ever to man’s best bedbug hunters, here are five ways animals are helping address nagging urban problems.

As Brush Clearers

Photo courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr

In Seattle, there are two constants: hills and blackberry bushes, the latter of which spread quickly through gardens and green spaces. Combine the two and you’ve got a real headache for the city’s public works department. But there’s one animal that thrives on hills and thorny bushes: goats.

The city’s department of transportation hired 60 goats to clear a hill of brush that was deemed too dangerous for humans to navigate. Seattle City Light, the city’s electric power utility, and the Seattle Parks and Recreation department have also hired the goats for brush clearing. One goat owner who rents them out to the city told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “They suck down blackberry vines like it was spaghetti. I don’t understand it, [but] the thorns don’t bother them at all.”

As Bedbug Finders

Bedbugs are a nightmare to get rid of and they thrive in urban environments. But many cities are finding success employing dogs to search out the elusive pests. City housing authorities from Seattle, Milwaukee, and New York have purchased bedbug-sniffing dogs. Just as dogs can be trained to sniff out drugs and bombs, certain dogs can be trained to find bedbugs.

But these specialized canines come at a high price. In 2009, Milwaukee purchased Gracie, a 12-pound Jack Russell terrier, to go on bedbug-hunting missions throughout the city’s 5,300 units of public housing. Gracie cost the city $10,000, but one city official explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel why she’s worth the money:

The advantage is that the animal can pinpoint bedbugs without having to go through all the units in a building, or trying to treat a whole building with various methods like raising the temperature in a building to 120 degrees.

And to stay off this list, we’re guessing it’s worth the cost.

As Natural Pesticides

In Thousand Oaks, California, native Modesto ash trees were being held captive by whiteflies and aphids (“plant lice”). Fortunately for the city, ladybugs have big appetites for these calamitous critters.

Last month, the city’s public works department deployed 720,000 hungry ladybugs to keep the plant destroyers in check. The beetles, which can consume about 5,000 of the insects throughout their two-year lifespan, cost the city about $2,000 per year. Much cheaper than the hundreds of dollars per vial of pesticide, according to the Ventura County Star.

As Lawn Mowers

Vacant lots have become a major problem in struggling cities during and even before the recession, costing taxpayers big money in maintenance and clean-up fees.

In Cleveland, officials came up with a cost-effective alternative: a flock of sheep (along with one llama). “We found that we could reduce the cost of mowing up to 50 percent and, of course, there is significantly less environmental impact,” Laura DeYoung of Urban Shepherds told The Plain Dealer.

As Mosquito Killers

Austin rather famously stumbled across its unlikely non-human ally: bats.

When the Congress Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1980, its crevices proved particularly hospitable to bats. Some Austinites wanted to see them gone, but the city decided to let them be. Today, the bridge is home to about 1.5 million bats, making it the largest urban bat colony in the world.

This has provided Austin a number of benefits. On a typical night flight the colony can consume 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests and mosquitoes. The bats have also become a popular tourist attraction. It’s the 21st ranked tourist attraction in the city and it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of people visit the site each year.

Old Horse Jumps from Glue Factory to Olympics Stage

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

​At 12 years old, racehorse Neville Bardos is well past his prime. In 2002, he narrowly escaped the slaughterhouse after a failed racing career. In 2011, he was horrifically burned in a Pennsylvania barn fire that killed six horses. But now, against all odds, the chestnut gelding is making a comeback. He’s not only a contender for equestrian glory at the London Olympic Games, but also set to be the subject of a new film. The handsome horse is considered a frontrunner in “three-day eventing” which encompasses dressage, cross country and show jumping. Meanwhile, his owner, Boyd Martin, who took a gamble on Neville just before he was headed to the glue factory, has just sold the movie rights to the story of Neville’s troubled life.

Risk of Reappearance of West Nile Virus in California Poses Threat to Horses

Saturday, May 5th, 2012
Horse owners urged to pursue vaccinations
SACRAMENTO, April, 19, 2012 – The risk of a return of West Nile virus to California this year is renewing calls for horse owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated. In 2011, 15 horses in California were confirmed positive for West Nile Virus. Four of the 15 were euthanized. All of the euthanized horses were not vaccinated“Outbreaks of West Nile virus are still a risk for horses,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford. “Horse owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible to ensure vaccination status is current. If people get the necessary shots for their horses now, the animals will have optimal protection against the disease.”

Signs of West Nile virus include stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitching and inability to stand. Horses contract the disease from carrier mosquitoes and are not contagious to other horses or people. Not every horse exposed to the virus will die, however, over the past eight years, affected horses have experienced a mortality rate of nearly 40 percent.

CDFA is cooperating with the California Department of Public Health to detect and respond to the disease in California. Horses provide an additional sentinel for disease detection in the environment. For more information, click on

Euthanasia Means “Good Death”

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

If you are an animal lover, your pet is probably one of your best friends. When that best friend is facing the end, it’s tough to say goodbye.  In this NBC29 Special Report, we look at the difficulty of deciding when it is time to say goodbye and your options afterward.

When animal lovers adopt a pet, they make a commitment to care for them, even when they’re sick and close to death. Most humans will outlive their companions, and the end of life for pets can bring deep grief and raise a load of questions.  When that happens, we humans get very emotional.

When dealing with a pet with a terminal condition, people often have a difficult time deciding whether to euthanize, or when the time is right to end their companion’s suffering.

John Dove has two cats, Krogie and Mocha, and cherishes the friendship he has with them. “I don’t have any children, but if I had children, I don’t think I could love them any more than I love my animals, they’re my kids essentially.”

Dove recently experienced the profound pain of losing an animal when his 12-year-old cat Scamper had a stroke.

“And then all of a sudden, he let out a yelp and I looked around at him and he was hyperventilating very heavily, so it looked like something was really wrong,” he said.

A quick trip to an emergency veterinarian divulged the dilemma a lot of pet owners face. “So at that point I had to make that very painful decision.”

Dr. John Andersen deals with clients who face euthanizing their beloved pet. “We’re in control and there’s a time we just have to make that really hard decision.”

Dr. Andersen is not only a pet owner, he is also a veterinarian in Albemarle County and says he understands the deep human-animal bond. “They’re a best friend, they’re kind of a confidante, they’re an explorer with you, they provide a lot of things.”

Only last year, his dog Kaya died after a prolonged battle with cancer. “When we had our dog, I was not married, just a bachelor. She took me through that and getting married and having kids,” he stated.

After 30 years of practicing in a clinic, Dr. Liz Palmer decided to start a mobile veterinarian service specializing in end of life care for pets.  So when a pet goes from having good and bad days to bad and worse days, she can help with in-home euthanasia.

“When an animal gets very, very old, it can be very stressful to bring them to a clinic. They can get very nervous or confused,” she stated. “I hear an awful lot, that ‘I would prefer my animal to die naturally’…barring a heart attack in their sleep, I think dying naturally is overrated.”

Dr. Andersen says some people have such a tough time letting go, they often put off the inevitable. “If I hear regrets from people, it’s often because people feel like they waited a little bit too long and when they look back, they have this image of their animal suffering.”

After Dove decided to end his cat Scamper’s suffering, he took his buddy’s body to the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA for cremation.

The SPCA offers private cremation for $130.00 and a variety of decorative tins for people to choose.  “You leave your animal in their care and a day or two later, they call you and tell you the ashes are ready,” Dove said.  Dove has Scamper’s picture and tin displayed at his home in memory of his beloved companion.

Paws and Remember is a company that offers everything from jewelry stamped with paw prints, key chains that carry ashes, to tiny caskets.  The Staunton company also provides cremation, most packages start at about $150.00 and go up from there.

But some pet owners can’t afford any extras.  Paws and Remember general manager Todd Dean says “If they don’t want their pet’s cremains back, then we will place them in one of these gardens here.”

The company has above ground crypts and a place where people can visit and leave flowers or pictures of their pets.

Since the death of Kaya, Dr. Andersen has adopted a new playmate for his other dog Boon. She’s an 8-week-old black lab named Ruby.  Dove did the same for his other little cat Krogie. He adopted a playful 3-year-old named Mocha from the SPCA. The new addition to the family gives Krogie a friend, but can never replace Scamper.

When he thinks back on the loss, Dove says “Love your animal as much and as often as you possibly can because you never know. I mean it almost doesn’t seem fair in a way that they don’t live longer than they do.”

For people who are struggling with the decision of whether to end their pet’s suffering, Dr. Andersen says the meaning of the word euthanize might help:  it means “good death”.