Roy Exum: A Veterinarian’s Horse Sense

Horses in quarantine

Roy Exum is known for his articles on horse “soring”. In this case, he tackles Ebola and the “horse sense” of one veterinarian. The fear from the spread of Ebola is something weighing heavily on Americans minds these days. How we treat our animals during times of epidemics are extremely different from how we treat ourselves. They are our property and are treated as such. We weigh more heavily for ourselves our desire for freedom over our desire for safety. I am not saying we should treat ourselves like we do our horses…but perhaps there could be a better compromise. ~ HfH

From: The Chattanoogan
By: Roy Exum

Horses in quarantine

Horses in quarantine

I suspect you’ve heard by now that a doctor in New York City, who volunteers with “Doctors Without Borders,” just got back from the African nation of Guinea on October 17 – last Friday – and on Thursday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus.

Luckily, he came in actual contact with only a few people but he reportedly rode a subway, took a taxi, went on a three-mile run and spent one night bowling with friends before he started feeling badly and exhibited a fever of 103 degrees.

I applaud Dr. Craig Spencer for his efforts to help ravaged people in Africa and I have every confidence that he will get through his sickness with the help of America’s dazzling medical resources. Yet I also think we ought to pay a little more attention to what we already know really works.

Dr. David Rustebakke is a large-animal veterinarian in far-away Clarkston, Washington. He’s been practicing for over 40 years and he knows quite a bit about “horse sense,” because almost every patient he has is really a horse. The guy is a professional, trained and experienced in four-legged patients.

Clarkston, aptly named for explorer William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, is in southwest Washington and is where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meld. The town is the gateway to North America’s deepest gorge, Hells Canyon, and it is a pretty spectacular place where Dr. Rustebakke often rides his own horses and views the world’s splendor.

As a veterinarian, he also understands viruses better than most, so not long ago he wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that appeared in the nearest newspaper, the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune. And, yes, the Idaho town was named for Meriweather Lewis, William Clark’s pal.

See if you don’t think Dr. Rustebakke’s letter makes a little sense:

* * *

To The Editor:

If I wish to import a horse into the United States from Liberia or any African country other than Morocco, the horse needs to undergo a 60 day quarantine period at a USDA approved quarantine facility prior to mingling with the general population of horses in this country.

Africa has a disease called African Horse Sickness that does not exist in the US; this is the way we have kept it out of this country. African Horse Sickness does not cause disease in people, only horses; our government has determined that it would be devastating to the US horse industry if it were to come here.

The United States (and virtually all other countries) require a myriad of tests and often quarantine prior to bringing in a foreign animal.

I can’t legally cross state lines in the United States with a horse or cow without a health certificate signed by a USDA accredited veterinarian stating that the animal has been inspected and found free of infectious disease. In most cases blood tests are also required. In fact I can’t legally cross the Snake River and ride my horse in Washington without a health certificate and a negative blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • Maggie Frazier

    Right on! So, tell me, is it “political correctness” that prevents some sort of a quarantine similar to what we have for animals? I have been mulling this over for a while – why, for that matter, are we continuing to allow anyone from the affected countries to come into not only the US, but any other country, without any type of quarantine? This is really kind of idiotic.

    October 25, 2014
    • jfinch

      This entire subject could possibly lead to some very interesting and in-depth discussions if treated with more sincerity that it is given on the national news shows by the talking heads. Would “Doctors Without Borders” have anyone from the USA serve if they knew they would be quarantined for three weeks? What about the pilots? Do we assume that all forms of transportation would be sterilized if they were involved in transporting anyone who might have been exposed? Who picks up the bill for the quarantine? Food, housing, security, medical attention for three weeks can get dang expensive.

      That whole argument leads into the economic value of human life, which is a subject far beyond our reach.

      October 25, 2014
      • Maggie Frazier

        Yes I agree there are many many questions as to HOW a quarantine would be handled & how far it should go. But honestly, shouldn’t the idea have cropped up before now?
        Sad, isn’t it – when the economic value seems to be more important than the actual lives of people!

        October 25, 2014
  • Debbie Stoutamire

    I do not applaud Dr. Craig Spencer. What he did was foolish and reckless and I highly doubt that all of a sudden he woke up with a 103 degree temperature. People need to wake up and smell the coffee. Ooops – they don’t want to know or hear the truth. Who I do applaud are the governors of New Jersey and New York for doing what our so called leader should have done months ago – establish a mandatory quarantine.

    October 25, 2014
    • Maggie Frazier

      I’m with you Debbie. This doctor, who had been in the area where there was Ebola – seems like if he was monitoring his temp etc, why did he go out in public & ride the subway???
      Not a really good medical move, right?

      October 25, 2014