Since 1912, a veterinary diagnostic service has existed at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. In the 1970’s the New York State Legislature enacted laws that authorized the Commissioner of Agriculture to contract operation of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Cornell University. In 1974, funds were appropriated for the construction of the existing Diagnostic Laboratory building within the College of Veterinary Medicine complex. The State law that governs the creation and operation of a veterinary diagnostic service at Cornell University was amended in 2001 to include the following language:
S 73-b. The New York state veterinary diagnostic laboratory.
1. The commissioner is authorized to establish and maintain, by contract or otherwise, a New York state veterinary diagnostic laboratory and to contract for other diagnostic services, as he or she may deem necessary or beneficial, to improve the health of food and fiber producing animals, companion animals, sport and recreational animals, exotic animals and wildlife.
2. The New York state veterinary diagnostic laboratory shall:
(a) Evaluate domestic and wild animal populations for evidence of disease agents that may cause human disease;
(b) Maintain capability to respond to disease outbreaks in animals;
(c) Establish diagnostic testing capabilities to establish herd health status and evaluation of disease programs;
(d) Support disease surveillance and monitoring programs of domestic, zoo and wild animals;
(e) Support veterinarians by analyzing and interpreting samples obtained from clinical cases; and
(f) Evaluate, adjust and improve New York’s ability to recognize diseases that impact animal populations.
Currently the AHDC employs over 200 professionals, including faculty in tenure and non-tenure track positions. The AHDC serves over 5,000 registered veterinary practices or organizations from all 50 states of the United States and several foreign countries. The AHDC is one of the most comprehensive veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the country, receiving over 150,000 submissions per year that generate over 1 million individual tests a year. All these activities generate an enormous number of informal and formal interactions with Center clientele and other stakeholders of our services. All these combined activities represent significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of society in general as well as the protection of the economic wellbeing of the animal industries and animal populations of the State of New York and the nation as a whole.
The impact of providing an effective surveillance and early disease detection for the State of New York is significant. When it comes to animal production economics, the estimate is that the dairy and animal production provided $1.87 billion to farmers in 2002. That accounts for 60 percent of all cash receipts. Milk sales account for over one-half of total agricultural receipts, with 12.2 billion pounds, at a value of $1.56 billion. New York livestock producers marketed 211 million pounds of meat animals during 2002, bringing in $116 million in cash receipts. Sales from cattle and calves accounted for $108 million, hogs and pigs returned $6.4 million and sheep and lambs provided $2.0 million. The economic impact of a disease event in the companion or on the wildlife sectors is much more difficult to quantify. However, the State of New York has a large population of companion animals (dogs, cats, horses, birds, camelids and other pets) that live in proximity to their owners. In addition, there are increasing opportunities for interaction between humans companion animals and wildlife species throughout the state and the nation. Such interactions increase the possibility of transmission of diseases from animals to humans and vice versa; increasing the possibility of emerging disease situations if/when diseases jump across species.
At the national level, the AHDC has been selected as a full member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). This network of state veterinary diagnostic laboratories provides expanded surveillance and diagnostic capabilities for the early detection of serious animal diseases caused by either natural or intentional (bioterrorism) sources. The AHDC is just one of seven NAHLN laboratories providing a full range of services in testing for diseases like Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever, Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease, Chronic Wasting Disease, Scrapie, and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (“Mad Cow Disease”). An outbreak of any of these diseases would have very serious economic, social, public health and political ramifications for the entire country.
The AHDC is accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD). The AAVLD Essential Requirements for accreditation incorporate the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines for veterinary laboratories. These standards are largely derived from the ISO/IEC 17025-1999 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. The AHDC has implemented a Quality System to the management and technical requirements specified by the AAVLD. Such a quality assurance program is essential for the laboratory itself as well as the clients that rely on the results from the laboratory. In addition, the Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) section of the AHDC is ISO17025 accredited for mastitis culture methods, the first such accreditation in the US.