Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2,237 deceased pets, still just the tip...

This morning from the PetConnection database (8:30 a.m. PT): 2,237 deceased pets (1,257 cats, 980 dogs). These are self-reported numbers, as you all know by now.
Why do I say it's still just the tip? Because none of the agencies involved in this seem to know what they're doing. Tragically, because of this, the numbers reported to the press are low, the numbers they report are low, so the story isn't covered the way it should be. Hasn't been from day one and still isn't.

Cats and dogs are dying unnecessarily this week because these agencies don't have their shit together. This cannot happen again. discusses this today, and calls for action. (Most bold and highlighting in red is mine)

Throughout the unfolding pet-food crisis, the vetcetera blog has provided the necessary counterpoint to what we’ve been reporting here on Pet Connection. In thoughtful, well-reasoned posts, that blog (written by a veterinary practice manager whose wife is a board-certified feline specialist) has looked at what we were doing and questioned the good and the not-so-good of it. His contributions have been valuable, especially his evaluation of what our PetConnection database of self-reported numbers really means.

This story has always been about the numbers. It is the nature of business to downplay bad news, and the nature of government to proceed with bureaucratic caution. But when thousands of pets are being sickened and killed, the need for the swift sharing of information is essential.

We were told early on that sick and dead pets should be reported to the FDA. Next, we were told that they should be reported to the FDA and that veterinarians should report to their respective State Veterinarians, who would then report to the FDA.

How well did that work?

Anyone who called the FDA directly knows how hard it was to get through. So what about the veterinarians who tried to report to the state?

Breaking truly new reporting ground — OK, we’re a little in awe, and wish we’d thought of it — vetcetera looked at the actions of the State Veterinarian in each state. And found, in most cases, they were in full-on Heckuva Job, Brownie mode. In other words, they made the FDA look good by comparison. With the notable exceptions of Oregon and Georgia, few states made much effort to share critical information, to let veterinarians know they should report in, or to take reports volunteered by veterinarians.

This is beyond scandalous. Getting and sharing this kind of information is a serious issue of national security. Veterinarians are a critical component of the public-health system. Even if you don’t care about animals, you ought to care about the ability of veterinarians to be part of a system that reports developing problems with animal health.

Because, well, some of those problems can quickly become human problems. Anyone ever hear of Bird Flu?

We must push for a national system to for the rapid two-way sharing of information on a health crisis among our animals.

Today, call or write (don’t e-mail — they bat those away like gnats) your elected representatives at the state and national level and demand a system be put in place.

Okay, you all catch that Bird Flu reference? If this situation doesn't already scare you, it should.

And maybe "Bird Flu" is the magic phrase needed to get this situation handled better.

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