LSU Veterinary School Helps Care for Rescued Horses

Neighbors of a farm in Many, La., began calling the Sabine Parish Humane Society in November 2011 because they noticed malnourished horses on the property. The humane society checked on some of the horses and tried to work with the owner; however, when the association began to suspect that the owner was deceiving them about the status of the horses and the number of horses he had, they sought a court order allowing them to enter the property and rescue the horses. The association then contacted the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association (LHRA), as well as additional rescue groups in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

On Jan.6, a Folsom, La., veterinarian (and alumnus of the Louisiana State University [LSU]School of Veterinary Medicine) contacted Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of veterinary medicine, to request her assistance with the horses. Specifically, McConnico was asked to assist with Coggin's testing and veterinary care and health assessments for the horses. The Coggin's test is a blood test used to diagnose the disease equine infectious anemia (EIA) sometimes called swamp fever; this test is required by federal law and overseen by the states.

On Jan. 7, Mustajab Mirza, DVM, MS, assistant professor of equine surgery at LSU, traveled to Many along with Cindy Meeker, veterinary technician, and Jessica Khodadad, veterinary student. They first sorted and corralled the horses for the identification and possession. Next, Mirza and the students assessed the horses to determine what treatment was needed and provided medical treatment for as many horses as possible.

On Jan. 8, veterinary students Elise Madara, Nick Lavie, Stephanie Thomas, Jessica Khodadad, Peter Armstrong, Nicholle Hebert, and Melissa O'Hara traveled to Many. The students assisted veterinarians with Coggin's testing, ultrasounds, examinations, and medical care. They also microchipped those horses that did not have permanent identification (permanent ID in the form of a microchip, tattoo, or brand is required by law in Louisiana).

The student volunteers were organized quickly using social media. The LSU SVM has a closed Facebook group for veterinary students who have had disaster response training. McConnico posted a call for action on the group's page, and the team was assembled in one day.

By the evening of Jan. 8, the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association removed almost all of the horses from the farm. Some horses had to be euthanized due to extreme poor prognosis for life. Forty-eight horses were removed from the farm (23 mares went to Alexandria, three stallions went to Lafayette and 22 horses went to Folsom) for rehabilitation. The horses are being quarantined and treated for dehydration, malnutrition, internal parasites, skin conditions, and pneumonia. The LHRA is working with volunteers to find foster homes or permanent homes for these horses. Many people came forward to help with this effort. The LSU veterinary school faculty and students are continuing to provide medical care and recommendations for health care rehabilitation for these horses.

"We cannot give enough thanks to the LSU Veterinary School's Equine Response Team," said Sunny Francois of the LHRA. "They are wonderful. We truly could not have removed these horses without their incredible team. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful team right here in our backyard."

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