Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Humane Observer Elyse Gardner

Our wild horses are learning about city living.  Pigeon Fever has come to roost.
©3/28/10 Photo by Craig C. Downer

Pigeon Fever is a bacterial infection, highly contagious, generally not fatal, just awful, nasty uncomfortable/painful, smelly.The condition can be very painful, and affected horses may be very lame or reluctant to move.  The infection also causes fever, lethargy and weight loss. In some cases, it can be fatal. 
General practice is any barn or ranch where even one horse has Pigeon Fever, a "Do Not Touch" sign is put on the horse's fence/stall, a note of "Pigeon Fever," the horse is quarantined.  If the individual is touched -- and of course they usually are! -- one just makes sure to wash one's hands thoroughly.
Clinical signs: Pus sacs form on chest (hence resembling a pigeon), can form on jaw, sheath, and mammary areas, and more. They can form internally, and those can be very difficult to treat properly. They can need lancing if they don't break themselves.  Accepted veterinary procedure when Pigeon Fever is present is to disinfect with bleach before allowing other horses into an area previously occupied by a horse with Pigeon fever; to disinfect boots; to wash hands before touching another horse.  Bleach on dirt is not effective, so keeping pens or stalls mucked and clean is super important.  There is no vaccination or inoculation, and antibiotics are not necessarily recommended at first.
©Photography by Craig Downer

"Because this disease is so highly contagious, it is very important that veterinarians accurately diagnose these cases to tailor treatment and control," said an expert named Torres.  "Horse owners should be aware of the clinical signs and understand that veterinary care must be timely. Infected horses should be isolated, the abscesses properly treated and the drainage properly disposed of. The area where the infected horse is kept must be properly cleaned and completely disinfected because this is a very hardy bacterium. Pest control is extremely important. 

Apparently on this last Sunday (I wasn't able to get to Nevada in time after D.C.) no one saw Tomahawk or Lightning since they've been processed.  I want to see their demeanor, see how they are doing, see what pens they're in now, see if they have Pigeon Fever.   And little Mouse... all these horses I have not named -- they all have their own names anyway -- but who are dear and familiar. 

Here we take these pure, beautiful, healthy horses from their homes and coop them up and expose them to a disease that, like human herpes, they will carry the rest of their lives, having possible outbreaks.  How tragic to do this to these otherwise content individuals that so beautify and enliven the stark Nevada mountains. 
1)   WHY IS IT BUSINESS AS USUAL?  Why are not these infected horses placed in the ample hospital pens at Fallon?  There were plenty of extra pens three weeks ago.  Why are they are leaving Pigeon Fever-infected horses, horses with active abscesses, out with the general population, given how contagious this is?  
2)   BLM HAS CANCELED next Sunday's visitation due to the celebration of Easter but said they will not offer an alternative day although we have asked for one.    People have been steadily filling up the visiting appointment slots.  People are ready and waiting to go this week.  Why cancel?  BLM's decision is disregarding the clearly expressed desire and will of the American public.  In view of the horses' illness and BLM's laissez-faire approach, is BLM grabbing the opportunity to exclude the public? What do YOU think?

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