The front lines contain multifarious actors and components: from intensive, large-scale, highly technical food animal facilities, monitored by well-trained livestock managers and veterinarians, to disparate clusters of companion animals within individual homes observed with differing degrees of intensity by their owners, to wildlife populations without any kind of regular monitoring contact by humans. It is a sine qua non that the first signs of a disease outbreak are small abnormalities in behavior. The sooner a new disease is recognized, the greater the likelihood that it will be effectively controlled and cause minimal damage.
In this context, an effective framework for animal health is most highly developed for agricultural animals. In today’s livestock industry, producers are encouraged to adopt herd health programs and focus on prevention rather than dealing with case-by-case problems (Gary Weber, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, presentation to committee, April 6, 2004). As front-line responders, animal attendants and caretakers may have variable levels of training and motivation for recognizing and reporting abnormalities and sounding an alert when abnormalities are noted.
Farm animals are also raised by individual “hobbyists” who might lack the training of paid animal attendants but who potentially have the luxury to be more observant of their animals than do large-scale animal producers. They might also have expendable income with which to seek out veterinary services when needed. Because the number of hobbyists is growing, a better picture of the animal care practices of this community is