Dr. Perry Durham, the new State Veterinarian for Arizona, describes the responsibilities of his office.
Ted Simons: Arizona has a new state veterinarian. Not many people are aware that we even had such an office in the first place, but we do. Dr. Perry Durham was recently named to the position, and he joins us now on "Horizon." Welcome to "Horizon."
Perry Durham: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Are you surprised that people like me were unaware that we have a state veterinarian?
Perry Durham: A little bit, yeah. But then I grew up in the agricultural world, so most people didn't. For me it's normal to wonder, "Who's the state vet and what are they doing?"
Ted Simons: So what does the state vet do?
Ted Simons: Our primary role is to prevent disease inside the livestock community of the state. Livestock here, cattle, horses, pigs, sheeps, and goats. We prevent anything that comes in and if it does come in and get started, we go out, find it, and eradicate it. That's job one here, is to protect the livestock in the state.
Ted Simons: How often do you have to do something like that?
Perry Durham: Um, that's kind of a tough question to answer, because disease doesn't really work on a regular sort of hourly basis. We get T.B. traces that come in from other places that we will track down and have to eliminate those animals. Several years back I think it was '03-04 we had the big Exotic Newcastles Disease epidemic. A lot of birds in California, we had one site out in the western part of the state. So the routine surveillance goes on pretty much all the time.
Ted Simons: It not only affects the food supply, some of those diseases can be transmitted to human beings.
Perry Durham: That's the second part of protecting not just the livestock, but the public. Because most of the regulatory diseases that we deal with were put into place in the '40s, '50s to eliminate things like tuberculosis and brucella that people were contracting from milk, meat and those sorts of things. And we've been very successful at getting those out.
Ted Simons: Animal cruelty, do you deal with that very much there?
Perry Durham: We have two avenues to get us into the welfare and the cruelty issues. One is in our section of the law title three that deals specifically with neglected of equine. The other is the criminal statute, title 13, which has to do with cruelty of any animal, really. Because we do have a law enforcement group, the -- what used to be known as Life Stock Services, now Animal Health and Welfare, do report to me. And so those folks, that's part of their duty, to investigate those matters as well.
Ted Simons: And you -- let's not forget fish and fish farms and such. You've got to monitor those too?
Perry Durham: Yes, we do, and the -- I guess you would say the emerging technology of algae production and oils and those sorts of things. Those do fall into our part of the house.
Ted Simons: And as well, I'm just guessing, but the importation of animals. How far does that go, if someone wants to bring fluffy in from Idaho, the cat, does your office get involved? If they want to start a farm and they want to transmit livestock -- how do you work that?
Perry Durham: Well, the Interstate Commerce Clause gets the feds the real jurisdiction on the road, but as far as coming past that imaginary border or the psychological border and getting into the state of Arizona, that's ours to set. And we do set hurdles for animals to have to get over, the owners of those animals to get over. Most of that deals with livestock, not so much with pets, but we do have some very specific rules in place that deal with, you've got to test for this, that, and the other, or come out of a free -- known-free area before you can come in.
Ted Simons: It sounds like livestock, poultry, fish are a big concentration. What about wild animals? A veterinarian is a veterinarian, right?
Perry Durham: That's generally true coming out of the school, but we usually go one way or the other fairly quickly. But wild animals, wildlife in the state of Arizona almost exclusively are dealt with by Game and Fish.
Ted Simons: Now, I know you're new on the job. But as far as you can tell, is the office staffed appropriately? Do you have enough funds? What are you seeing in there? How long have you been on the job?
Perry Durham: Seven days.
Ted Simons: Seven days?
Perry Durham: Seven working days, actually this is the end of the eighth.
Ted Simons: Alright, okay you must know everything about it. Can you do the job? Do you have the resources to do the job?
Perry Durham: Oh do I believe I can do the job and the people? Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Do you have the resources?
Perry Durham: Do we need more? I would like to think we can do the job, but more would be a big help.
Ted Simons: What would you need most?
Perry Durham: Well, that's kind of tough to say after seven days. I don't have a good feel for what I'd really like to pursue. But one of the things I do have, job one, is to get out in the country and listen to people. Your reaction and some of the other folks who have been on the show today is just reinforce the idea that I had coming in that I need to get out and talk to people. People need to have an opportunity to discuss with me what's important to them. Not just the ag. community, although that's really kind of the first group to get to, but all of the other constituencies, the veterinarians out there, the people who own companion animals, which most people think of their equine anymore as companion animals. I really do want to get out there and meet those people and understand what's going on in their world and what's really their main concern.
Ted Simons: This isn't new for you, correct? Were you an assistant in the department?
Perry Durham: I was an assistant for seven years, but left about three years ago to work on a project for the Department of Defense.
Ted Simons: Talk to us about that project. That sounds fascinating. Taking care of animals for troops, right?
Perry Durham: Yes. Exactly. The -- I kind of ran away from the farm when I was a young kid and went off into the I.T. field, and most of my professional career I blended those two. And it's been very good to me. The last three years I worked on a project that took a veterinarian practice management application and put it into the Pentagon so that the veterinarian command has the ability to track their animals, not just their animals, the military working dogs, for instance, but also all of the service men and women's animals and ratchet up the level of care they can provide. Because they run 24/7 around the globe, and our application is there to support them doing that.
Ted Simons: That's a great program. We have very little time left. What got you into all this? I heard you say were you raised on a farm.
Perry Durham: I was born into it. It's kind of hard for me to answer that question because I was like, "I didn't have a choice." And I did run away because feeding cows is kind of hard work and working inside certainly looks a lot more appealing. But after a while you have to get back to what's running in your blood.
Ted Simons: You're doing a little bit of both, and congratulations. Good luck on the job.