Thursday, May 30, 2019

Practice good biosecurity to protect your horse from strangles

Dr. Amber Itle
Washington Assistant State Veterinarian 

Strangles in horses, or Streptococcus equi infections, is a contagious disease endemic in Washington, but not usually fatal. Still, it is a reportable disease, and several cases have been reported recently to the Washington State Veterinarian’s Office.

Since the end of April, there have been reports of 16 confirmed, laboratory-diagnosed cases of strangles at five locations in King, Snohomish, Chelan, Yakima, and Thurston counties.

All are being managed by private veterinarians who have imposed self-quarantine, implemented biosecurity measures, and executed testing protocols. WSDA has been in contact with those veterinarians to monitor these cases and provide support.

WSDA can write quarantines to stop the movement of horses in cases where barns don’t comply with the instructions of a private veterinarian, but that has not been necessary in any of these recent cases because all are complying with their self-imposed quarantines.

When a quarantine is in effect, no horses are allowed to move on or off the premises, attend horse shows, or travel. It is actually against the law to expose other animals to contagious, infectious, or communicable disease.

Strangles is rarely fatal and the prognosis for recovery is usually very good with proper care. But as the name suggests, strangles can affect a horse’s respiratory system. Symptoms include:
  • Fever.
  • Abscesses in the mandibular lymph nodes.
  • Nasal discharge that can include thick white and yellow mucus.
  • Inflammation of the throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • In rare cases, bleeding from the capillaries.
Good biosecurity practices are the best defense against the disease. The Equine Disease Communication Center’s “What is biosecurity?” offers excellent recommendations. The EDCC also recommends the following:
  • When possible, isolate new horses for up to three weeks when they are being introduced to a new facility. 
  • If you have handled an infected animal during an outbreak, avoid coming in contact with susceptible animals. 
  • Wear protective clothing, avoid using the same equipment on multiple animals, and disinfect both your hands and equipment when moving between animals.
This “Strangles Fact Sheet” from the EDCC has more information on this disease, tips and suggestions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

WSDA receives award as patriotic employer

Chris McGann 

WSDA Director Derek Sandison Recieves the distinguished
Pro Patria award from Wayne Hilton. 
This month, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded the distinguished Pro Patria award to WSDA Director Derek Sandison for his outstanding support of National Guard and Reserve employees.

Washington Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) presented the award in recognition of Sandison’s extraordinary support of employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.

Our Animal Services Division currently has two Army Veterinary Corps veterinarians on staff, both of whom have recently engaged in military obligations including command, humanitarian efforts, required training events, and overseas deployments.

Most recently State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph deployed overseas.

“Thank you for all that you do for our military folks and we are pleased to be able to come down here and do this,” said Wayne Hilton, Washington ESGR South Sound chair.

Capt. Daniel Fredrick, commander of the Olympia Army
Recruiting Company, discusses recruiting with Sandison.
“We’re pleased to receive this, but we are also very proud of Dr. Joseph and our other staff who have done military service. It’s important,” said WSDA Director Derek Sandison. “The men and women who serve in the Guard and Reserve do a tremendous service to our country, as well as our agency. We are proud to support them in any way we can.”

The Pro Patria Award

ESGR, a Department of Defense program, seeks to foster a culture in which all employers support and value the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve in the United States. For more information about ESGR outreach programs or volunteer opportunities, call 800-336-4590 or visit

The Pro Patria Award is presented annually to one small, one large, and one public sector employer in their state or territory. Recipients have demonstrated the greatest support to Guard and Reserve employees through their leadership and practices, including adopting personnel policies that make it easier for employees to participate in the National Guard and Reserve. This is the highest level award that may be bestowed by an ESGR state committee.


The award recognized our agency’s support of our Army Reserve veterinarians by covering their responsibilities or regions while they are away and planning accordingly so their focus can remain on their military obligations or missions.

WSDA believes this is particularly important for those serving in combat zones, as there is inherent danger in these operations. Animal Services Division employees serving in this capacity can have complete faith and assurance that their regulatory duties will be handled efficiently in their absence.


WSDA also actively seeks out veterans for employment. Our state recruiter targets veterans through attending job fairs at Joint Base Lewis McChord, as well as volunteering for workshops geared toward helping transitioning veterans into civilian life.  The recruiter can also assist with resume writing and interviewing skills.

Ohad Lowy, Sandison, Fredrick and Hilton. 
Last year, our recruiter has set up two informational interviews for veterans, and one resulted in the hiring of a state cannabis coordinator. 

In the field

In addition, WSDA supports active duty and reserve Veterinary Corps units at Joint Base Lewis McChord by offering tours, giving presentations, and discussing animal health topics or emerging diseases.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A "world of work" in agriculture

Chris McGann

Eighth grader, Addie Barker calibrates a class F metric weight
set used by WSDA Weights and Measures inspectors.
The white cotton glove on Addie Barker’s left hand gave her the look of a museum curator or gemologist. With a steady hand, the 14-year-old gripped a tiny metal weight with a large tweezer and placed it gingerly on the digital scale next to her laptop.

State Metrologist Leslie German watched attentively, guiding her through each step and adding occasional pointers.

Anything from the room’s temperature or humidity to the manner in which Addie sets the weight on the scale could influence the reading.

The eighth grader from NOVA Middle School had ventured beyond the confines of her Olympia classroom to WSDA’s Metrology Laboratory last week as part of the school’s “World of Work” project. She was there to experience a slice of the work life she might expect if she pursues a science-based career.

State Metrologist Leslie German shows Addie Barker how to log data from a
This job shadow is an example of the many opportunities the agriculture industry holds for young people exploring career options – some of which may not be the first to come to mind when thinking of agriculture.

Though farming and ranching are cornerstones and what most people think of first at the mention of agriculture, some might not realize how fundamental science is to the entire agriculture industry.

As such, work in agriculture offers myriad job opportunities for aspiring scientists – careers in chemistry, microbiology, genetics, process management and ecology to name just a few.

The little-known, analytical world of metrology, or the science of measurement and measurement uncertainties, is another example.

It is the heart and soul of WDSA’s Weights and Measures Program, which tests and inspects commercial devices to provide price verification and equity for commercial transactions. The program is responsible for package inspection, public education, fuel quality monitoring, and complaint investigations.

The state Metrology Laboratory provides the verified standards and analysis for Weights and Measures field inspectors.

Without an accurate reference for a gallon or a gram or a metric ton, there would be no way to assure the public and private companies that they are getting what they’re paying for at gas pumps, grocery scales or highway weight stations.

A standard used to calibrate an official scale.
Metrology, a field that is, in a very literal sense, defined by precision, the hard sciences such as mathematics, statistics and physics are paramount.

Addie says she’s just “OK” at math, but when pressed she admitted that she currently carries a 98 percent average in her algebra class.

German, a former educator, said it was encouraging to see a young woman like Addie going into science.

“She really does have interest and I’m really tickled about that,” German said.

If Addie is really inspired by metrology, employment opportunities are plentiful.

Weighing the standards is more complicated than you might think.
“Oh my gosh! there are so many, there are labs at Boeing, medical research laboratories, it’s all over the state,” German said. “You don’t realize it, there are labs everywhere. Every state has at least one lab and a lot of biotech companies have metrologists on staff.”

German is the first woman to hold the position of Washington’s State Metrologist and industry-wide she says women are under-represented.

Although Addie clearly has the mathematical aptitude to pursue a career in metrology, she said parts of the discipline are a bit intimidating.

“I don’t think I’m organized enough to be able to do it,” she said.

But in the precise environment of the laboratory, the soft-spoken teen’s precision and a keen attention to detail shined through as she carefully recorded each observation on a spread sheet and replaced the standard to the rack.

From this observer’s prospective, it seems likely her organizational skills were more than adequate to allow her to pursue metrology or almost any scientific career path if she chooses.

She’ll probably pass her algebra class, too.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

What to expect before, during, and after WSDA sprays for gypsy moth caterpillars

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

gypsy moth caterpillar on leaf
Gypsy moth caterpillar on a leaf

In May and June, WSDA’s pest program will conduct gypsy moth caterpillar treatments in Kitsap, Snohomish, and King counties. Having been in many of the spray areas in the 2016 and 2018 eradication projects, I want to let people who live in or near one of the 2019 gypsy moth treatment areas what they can expect this year.

The day before treatments

Sign up to receive text, email or robo
call notifications before treatments.
Treatments are highly dependent on the weather, so WSDA usually makes the final decision to spray the day prior to starting a treatment. If you have signed up for treatment notifications, you will receive an email, text, or robocall the day before treatments begin. We also posts notices of pending treatments in WSDA’s 2019 Gypsy Moth Eradication Facebook group and on our Twitter account.

The product used to treat for gypsy moth caterpillars is Foray 48B. The active ingredient is Btk – a soil bacteria. Foray 48B is approved for use on organic food crops. Some people who live areas to be treated close their windows, bring in outside toys, or cover their cars. It is sticky, so bringing in or covering outdoor items will prevent the need to wash them off after the treatments.

Cover cars and bring in or cover outdoor toys or wash them
with soap and water after treatments to remove the sticky residue.
If Btk does get on your car or other outdoor items, don’t worry – it won’t damage them. But because it is sticky, you will probably want to wash it off with soap and water. In 2016, I had the same car and was in the spray zone for several treatments over a few weeks and one trip through the carwash removed all of the sticky residue. Luckily, Btk is much easier to remove than gypsy moth caterpillar droppings!

Treatment day

Gypsy moth caterpillar spraying starts as early in the morning as possible – usually around sunrise (the pilot cannot legal spray in the dark) if the weather is good. Fog or wind, for example, can delay or even cancel spraying for the day.

The treatments will be conducted by airplane. The plane is red and white. It will fly over the treatment area at a relatively low altitude – about 250 feet above the ground.

The plane will make several passes over each treatment area until the entire area has been covered. The plane has guidance systems and GPS to make sure that it is on target. The release of the Btk automatically starts when the plane enters the treatment area and stops when the plane leaves, ensuring that only the target area is treated.

The spray comes out in a very fine mist. It is so fine, in fact, that if you are outside when the Btk is applied you will not even feel the spray. You will notice an odor in the air; it has a bit of an earthy scent to it. While you can see the product immediately after it comes out of the plane, you really can’t see if when it comes down, except for the speckled sticky residue it leaves.

The Washington State Department of Health says that Btk – and Foray 48B specifically – poses very low risk to human health. Still, if you want to avoid contact with the spray, the Department of Health recommends remaining indoors during the spray and for 30 minutes afterward. If you do come in contact with the spray, they recommend washing with soap and water. I was in the spray area several times in 2016 and 2018 and didn’t have any problems.

Even with its excellent safety record, if you believe you have had some reaction to the spray, you should see your doctor and/or report it to the Department of Health at 1-877-485-7316.

After treatments

When each treatment is completed at each site, those who have signed up for notices will receive a text message or robocall. When treatments at both sites are complete, an email message will go out to those who have signed up for email alerts. We will also have real-time updates on Twitter and in our Facebook group letting people know when treatments are complete.

Because the gypsy moth caterpillars emerge at different times at the various treatment sites and because Btk breaks down quickly in the environment, each site will be treated at least three times, with 3-14 days between treatments depending on the weather. You can expect the same process described above for each treatment. We expect to complete all treatments by mid-June.

Summer trapping

After all gypsy moth caterpillar spraying is complete, the next step will be to conduct intensive trapping for two years. This confirms the success of the eradication project. You will likely see our traps in trees in your neighborhood or along a road. Please do not disturb them.

If you have any questions about the eradication project or our gypsy moth program, you can visit our website at, email us at, or call our gypsy moth hotline at 1-800-443-6684.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Modernizing the Livestock Inspection Program

Jodi Jones
Animal Health Program

A new law for WSDA's brand program goes into effect this summer. 
Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation intended to restore financial solvency to our Livestock Inspection Program (LID).

The program, which has roots dating back to the 1860s, is entirely funded by fees paid by the livestock industry and receives no state general fund dollars.

But in recent years, the program has been in financial crisis. The inspection fees it relies on are set in statute and had not been adjusted since 2006. Over time, rising costs outpaced fee revenue.

The livestock industry worked with the Washington State Legislature to develop a new fee structure to fully fund the program. Here are some of the major program changes taking effect this summer.

Program changes

The LID Program provides asset protection and theft deterrence for the livestock industry through inspections, verifying ownership documentation, and issuing a clear "title" to the new owner. We conduct proof of ownership inspections at five critical points:
  • At change of ownership.
  • At out-of-state movement.
  • When offered for sale at a public livestock market.
  • When delivered to a USDA slaughter facility.
  • When delivered to a certified feedlot.
The new law

  • Expands the Livestock Identification Advisory Committee from six to 12 members.
  • Modifies livestock inspection fees.
  • Allows WSDA-certified private livestock inspectors to perform livestock inspections.
  • Expands the Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting (ECTR) system for dairy cattle to all cattle.
  • Takes effect July 28, 2019.

The following sections expire on July 1, 2023

  • Livestock Identification Advisory Committee.
  • Inspection fees.
  • Certified feedlot audit fees.
  • Public livestock market inspection fees.

Legislation will be required to extend LID program fees and inspection activities beyond that date.

New inspection fees

Under the bill passed by the Legislature, fees for livestock inspections rose by 10 percent, except the inspection fee for unidentified cattle which are defined as cattle that have a brand that is not recorded to the owner and cattle that are not identified with an official electronic individual identification tag. The fee for unidentified cattle changed from $1.60 to $4 per head.


  • The inspection fee for identified cattle is $1.21 per head.
  • The inspection fee for horses is $3.85 per head.
  • The audit fee for certified feedlots is 28 cents per head.
  • A $20 call-out fee replaces the time and mileage fee and will be collected for all inspections.
  • The annual license fee for a certified feed lot will be $935.
  • Annual fees for livestock markets are $165, $330, or $495, depending on average gross sales.
  • The brand-recording fee is increased from $120 to $132.
  • Applications to transfer a brand carries a $27.50 fee.
  • The transfer fee for "legacy brands," that have been in use for at least 25 years, is $100.

Livestock Identification Advisory Committee

Through July 1, 2023, Livestock Identification Advisory Committee membership is increased from six to 12 members with two members from each of the groups currently represented. No more than two members of the committee may reside in the same county. The committee must meet at least twice per year.

Veterinarian certification and field livestock inspectors

Veterinarians and others who apply to be certified to perform livestock inspections must submit an application and complete training. The bill requires WSDA to maintain a list of field livestock inspectors for at least six geographic regions who are certified to perform livestock inspections.

Training will include:

  • Reading of printed brands.
  • Reading of brands or other marks on animals, including the location of brands on animals.
  • Reading of an electronic ID or other electronic official individual identification of cattle.
  • Completion of official documents.
  • Review of satisfactory ownership documents.

WSDA may adopt fees to cover the costs associated with providing training. A certified veterinarian or a field livestock inspector is not considered a WSDA employee. Livestock inspection certification of certified veterinarians and field inspectors may be suspended or revoked under certain circumstances.

Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting System

The use of the Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting (ECTR) System, which is currently used only to report changes of ownership for unbranded dairy cattle, is expanded to all cattle. The ECTR system may be used to report transactions electronically as an alternative to mandatory inspections. ECTR may also be used to report the inspection of animals that are being moved out of state. Use of the ECTR system for reporting cattle ownership changes or out-of-state movement requires a WSDA license. All cattle that are reported in ECTR must have an official electronic individual identification tag.

WSDA may adopt ECTR application, licensing and reporting fees by rule. Fees must be adjusted by rule to match, as closely as practicable, amounts needed to cover ECTR system costs. If surplus ECTR revenues are generated because a substantial number of cattle owners use ECTR to report electronically, the current ECTR reporting fee of $1.30 per head will be reduced substantially by rule.

Moving toward modernizing cattle identification

On April 10, 2019, the USDA announced a phased transition to increased official electronic identification of cattle until official electronic identification becomes an industry-wide requirement at the beginning of 2023.

Coordinating a reassessment of the new LID program fee structure with the new federal policy is appropriate. Legislation will be required to extend LID program inspection activities beyond the July 2023 expiration. The ECTR fee section for reporting electronically identified cattle transactions does not expire.

Official electronic identification is a step forward for animal disease traceability, food safety, international trade, and the long-term economic viability of the livestock industry.

Expectations and uncertainties

Fee revenues are expected to cover program costs through July of 2023.  The new $4 fee rate on unidentified animals may be an incentive for producers to identify their animals at a lower fee. This creates some fiscal uncertainty because we don’t know which identification options producers will favor most. We do however expect the legislation to increase electronic official identification and help modernize Washington’s cattle identification system, supporting a more robust animal disease traceability program.

Going Forward

We will be closely monitoring how producers respond to the new fees and reforms to make sure program expenditures don’t exceed program revenues. We are hopeful that the new fee structure will provide sufficient revenue to bring the livestock inspection program back to solvency.

Email for questions on the new fees.