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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Veterinary tools on display at Putnam County Museum

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A tool from the collection of the late Dr. Donald "Doc" Brattain sits on display at the Putnam County Museum. Courtesy photo
GREENCASTLE -- On display at the Putnam County Museum is a special exhibit of a portion of the late Dr. Donald "Doc" Brattain's collection of the tools of the trade he used in his many years as a veterinarian.

"Thanks to Dr. Otis Patrick, these items are identified," said Sally Gray, museum board member and membership chair.

Some of the items in the collection include a trepan, a balling gun, nose tongs, kangaroo tendons, and rumen magnets.

"These tools give a good picture of the extent of a vet's needs to care for animals -- not only today, but in years gone by," Gray said.

Brattain's practice extended over a span of 61 years. He opened the doors to his practice in Putnam County in 1946, two years after receiving his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Michigan State University.

Over those six decades, he treated animals of all sizes and shapes, providing comfort for not only the animals in his care, but also to their owners.

While the exhibit at the Putnam County Museum gives an historic perspective on the practice of veterinary medicine in Putnam County, the practice of animal medicine has a much longer history.

Veterinary science goes back to the domestication of animals -- back before the time of Christ.

The laws of Assyria, dated 2200 B.C., included the first authentic record of animal physicians. Ancient Indian treatises mentioned horse and elephant diseases. Evidence of prescriptions for dog and cattle diseases is found in 1900 B.C. Egypt and a schedule for fees for doctors who treated oxen dates back to 1800 B.C. Babylon.

Early Roman and Greek writings provide evidence of knowledge of quarantine, hygiene, and preventive medicine in the treatment of animal diseases.

But it wasn't until the 18th century, with the establishment of schools in Europe, that offered instruction on care and treatment of animal diseases that any real progress was made in animal medical science.

With animals living in so much closer proximity to humans (even in homes) and humans living so much closer to each other as urbanization expanded, a new look and fresh approach to animal care was inevitable.

Continental European veterinary education began in 1760 and in England in 1791. But it wasn't until 1879 -- when Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa, opened the first vet school in this country -- that veterinarian education got started in the United States.

Historical records may date the first "cow doctor" to1625 Colonial Virginia, but when little science was available people used an abundance of superstition and home cures instead of science. Little thought was given to the relationship between animals and public health, since the initial environment into which animals were brought to this country was disease-free and low in human (and animal) population density.

While most of our experience with veterinarians arises from the care for small, domesticated animals, until the 1900s cattle and horses received virtually the exclusive attention of vets -- the exception being the practice of canine medicine.

Of course, this may be no coincidence, since horse population declined dramatically with mechanization on the battlefield, the farm and on roads.

So, by the 1920s and 1930s the number of veterinarians in the United States actually decreased. By 1910 hogs and sheep were receiving vets' attention, and small animal hospitals and clinics were well established.

With time, the educational requirements for veterinarians also evolved. In the early 1900s not much was required of students entering our veterinarian education schools (for some schools just three years of high school) and the course of study was three years. By 1926 most courses for a veterinarian degree were five years long, including one year of pre-vet education.

There were only four female practitioners of veterinarian medicine in 1915. By 1969, there were 700 women, comprising 10 percent of all students in our veterinarian colleges.

Today, 60 percent of those students are women.

"Changes, yes, many changes in the practice of veterinary medicine," Gray said. "But what hasn't changed is how grateful we are for those who care for our animals in need."

Brattain contributed in many ways to the community, and was the first president of the Putnam County Museum Board of Directors. He was a member of the First Christian Church, Greencastle Kiwanis Club, the Masonic Lodge F & AM.

He also served on the Putnam County Board of Health and on the boards of the Human Society of Putnam County and that of the Putnam County Comprehensive Services.

Brattain was also a member of the American Veterinary Association and the Indiana Veterinary Medicine Association.

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