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History of Veterinary Medicine in Nevada

History of Veterinary Medicine in Nevada

Written by John L. O’Harra, DVM

In order to document the early history of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, activities will be tied in to include the Veterinary Science Department of the University of Nevada, Reno; the Division of Animal Industry of the Nevada Department of Agriculture; and the Nevada State Veterinary Association as the early activities were all interrelated.

1907 – 1930

Regulatory veterinary activities in the State of Nevada were instigated when the State Board of Sheep Commissioners was formed by a Legislative act in the year 1907. During this year, sheep scabies presented a problem to the Nevada Sheep Industry and a program of eradication was instituted by that Board. Following the formation of the State Board of Sheep Commissioners, other State Veterinary Agencies were formed.

In the year 1914, the Anthrax outbreak in west central Nevada was becoming highly expensive to the livestock industry and relief was necessary from this insidious disease. This, accompanied by the largest outbreak of foot and mouth disease to ever occur in the United States, prompted the Nevada Legislature on March 11, 1915 to instruct the President of the University of Nevada, Reno to establish a State Veterinary Control Service Laboratory on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. In April 1914, Governor Emmit D. Boyle appointed the original State Board of Stock Commissioners, which consisted of three members.

In addition to the threat of foot and mouth disease, and the high incidence of Anthrax within the state, an extensive outbreak of rabies occurred which was of epizoot proportion during the year 1915 to 1917. During the three year period, 313 cases of rabies were confirmed at the State Veterinary Control Service Laboratory. Rabies was confirmed in every county of the state among both domestic livestock and wild animals. The extent and incidence of rabies in Nevada during that period of time led to the formation of a State Rabies Commission through the efforts of the State Board of Livestock Commissioners, the State Veterinary Control Service Laboratory, and the Emergency State Rabies Commission. The incidence of rabies was lowered and the outbreak was considered under control by approximately 1934.

Dr. Winifred B. Mack, Director of the State Veterinary Control Service, was named as Secretary and Executive Officer to the State Board of Stock Commissioners in 1915. The offices of the Commission were located in the Hatch Building on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The original State Veterinary Control Service Laboratory was located in the Dame Building on the Campus and was later moved to a remodeled dairy building also on the Campus in 1936.

The State Veterinary Control Service Laboratory and staff was a unit of the Public Service Division of the University of Nevada, Reno. The Department of Veterinary Science was started in 1906 by Dr. Mack who also served as Director of the State Hygienic Laboratory from its establishment in 1909. Dr. Mack continued to serve as Director of the State Hygienic Laboratory until 1916, at which time he was succeeded by Dr. Edward Records. Dr. Records came to Nevada from the Pennsylvania Livestock Sanitary Laboratory and was joined on the University Laboratory staff in 1920 by Dr. L. R. Vawter.

These three men are credited with pioneer research regarding the cause and control of diseases now known as Equine Infectious Anemia and Equine Encephalomyelitis Anthrax, and Bacillary Hemoglobinuria. The pioneer work of these three scientists stands today as an outstanding research and veterinary control project.


On January 30, 1919 at 7 pm, twelve Nevada Veterinarians met at the Riverside Hotel in Reno, Nevada at a dinner meeting for the purpose of forming an organization. This meeting was called to order by Dr. Stephen Lockett, who was elected as the Temporary Chairman. The first order of business was a discussion to determine a name for the new organization. Upon a motion by Dr. L. C. Butterfield and seconded by Dr. Edward Records, the name "The Nevada State Veterinary Association” was suggested. Following the discussion, the motion was adopted unanimously. The original officers of the association were Dr. L. C. Butterfield, President; Dr. F. H. Baker, Vice President; and Dr. W. B Earl, Secretary-Treasurer.

Upon motion by Dr. Records, seconded by Dr. Love and carried, the officers of the Association were authorized to act as the Executive Committee of the Association and were charged with drafting a Constitution and Bylaws and to fix a date and place for the second meeting of the Association to be held within 90 days at which meeting the Constitution and Bylaws shall be acted upon.

Upon motion by Dr. Lockett, seconded by Dr. Yancy and carried, the Executive Committee was authorized to draft a resolution endorsing Assembly Bill 27, regulating the practice of Veterinary Medicine in Nevada and asking each Senator and Assemblyman to give his support to the bill.

This action by the Nevada State Veterinary Association was the first effort to form a Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to regulate Veterinary Medical Practice within the State.

The last business of this meeting was a motion by Dr. Records, seconded and carried with the charter membership of the association shall consist of the 15 active veterinarians located in the state of Nevada at that time.

The second meeting of the Nevada State Veterinary Association met at 8 pm on April 23, 1919 in the offices of the Department of Veterinary Science of the University of Nevada, Reno. At this meeting the first reading of the proposed Constitution and Bylaws, prepared by the Executive Committee, was made. Following the reading of the proposed Constitution and Bylaws, an article of the time with the lengthy discussion of the various Articles, the Constitution and Bylaws were adopted at this meeting. Among the many protocols set forth by the Constitution and Bylaws, it is interesting to note that the Annual Dues of this Association, set by the Bylaws were $5, payable at the January meeting.

One of the first Ad Hoc Committees to be appointed in the Association was one appointed by the President to study the subject of meat and milk inspection in the City of Reno.

The second annual meeting of the Nevada State Veterinary Association was held at 7 pm at the Riverside Hotel in Reno, Nevada on January 9, 1920. The Report of the Treasurer showed the Association had $52 in income, expenditures of $28.70, leaving a balance on hand at the end of the first year of $23.30. At this meeting, the Secretary reported on the incorporation of Associations and pointed out the advantage of having the Nevada State Veterinary Association incorporated. The new Executive Committee was instructed to take steps to incorporate the Association.

At the April 1920 meeting the Secretary informed the Association that it was duly incorporated and read the Articles of Incorporation. It is noted at this time that the membership of the Association had advanced from the 15 original charter members to 18, which is the present membership at the beginning of the 1921 annual year.

The only committee that had been functioning in the Association, the Committee on Meat and Milk Inspection in the City of Reno, had given a number of reports and reported at this meeting that they had met with the City’s Health Physician and learned that the city was not at this time interested in a Meat and Milk Ordinance. The City’s Health Physician reported on recent efforts to establish a City Venereal Disease inspection and treatment service at a cost of $35,000 which had failed. The City felt that the VD Clinic was much more important to the welfare of the citizens of Reno than meat and milk inspection would be at this time.

At the annual meeting on January 20, 1921, two additional pieces of business were transacted:
1. It was agreed among the membership that the formal meetings of the Association should be limited to two meetings annually. The annual meeting should be held in January, with a semi-annual meeting to be held during the month of July or as nearly at that time as conveniently possible. The meetings had all been held in Reno and probably would continue to follow that pattern.
2. It was also noted that the treasury was maintaining a balance of $50 to $60 annually, and the expenses were all taken care of and it was voted to lower the annual dues from $5 to $2.50 annually to be paid in January.

At the annual meeting in 1923, following a careful audit of the books of the Association, it showed a balance on hand of $61.63, with the balance to the credit of the association in the Washoe County Bank was $59.13, leaving a discrepancy of $2.50. The report of the Audit Committee which reviewed the finances left in mind that Dr. Lockett, upon his departure for the Island of Jamaica had failed to turn in $2.50 dues which was collected. This discrepancy in the Association finances caused a great deal of upset among the membership. It was kept on the books until the following annual meeting at which time it was felt that Dr. Lockett would not reimburse the Association for the $2.50 in question, and it was moved, seconded, and passed that the $2.50 be written off and the Association books brought back into order.

It is noteworthy that during these early meetings of the Association, continuing education would seem to have a high value. Each Association meeting was lengthy, some of them extended into a second day for literary papers, demonstrations, discussions of current veterinary medical problems, and other matters that did contribute a great deal to the current education of the membership.

It is noted that at one meeting a wet lab was carried out. A horse was presented for various demonstrations following of which the horse was euthanized and an in depth necropsy procedure was demonstrated for the benefit of the Association. The records of the Association show that $10 was authorized for this purpose to go for the purchase of the horse and the removal of the carcass by the previous owner of the same.

It is further noted that out-of-state speakers were routinely invited to attend these meetings and present papers - particularly Dr. Traum from the University of California, an outstanding veterinary scientist at that time and other members all very high caliber within the profession.

Following each of the annual and semi-annual meetings of the Association, a formal banquet, usually held at the Riverside or the Golden Hotel in Reno was attended by the membership.

During 1929, the year of financial crisis in the United States, the Association made a quick move to deposit their treasury funds into a newly reorganized United Bank in Reno. This action, it was felt, saved the loss of the Association funds due to the closing of the Washoe Bank.

It was noted that during this time, the American Veterinary Medical Association was reorganizing and forming a House of Delegates. The Nevada State Veterinary Association was requested to send a Delegate to the annual meeting of the AVMA for the business of transacting AVMA responsibilities. It was also noted that the Nevada Veterinary Association membership contributed 100% membership to the AVMA, the only state in the west at which a 100% membership in the national association was accomplished.


The State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners was created by Legislative Act on February 21, 1919. This is recorded in Section 5, Chapter 17 of the statutes of Nevada, 1919. The three man board was appointed by the Governor of the State - Dr. George L. Nicholas, Dr. F. H. Baker and Dr. Robert Dill. The newly created board met in the office of the Governor in the Capitol Building in Carson City on June 30, 1919 at 1:30 pm. At this time the Board was organized with Dr. Nicholas being the first President, Dr. Baker the Vice President and Dr. Dill the Secretary-Treasurer.

The Attorney General’s office and the Governor addressed the Board with regard to their duties and powers. The Governor addressed the Board regarding the duties of the Examining Board and offered the advice that the Board was created to regulate Veterinary Medicine in the State of Nevada with its main objective being to protect the public from any unfair, unwise or unqualified practices of veterinary medicine.

The Board set a policy that it would examine all applicants for licenses to practice veterinary medicine and surgery in the State of Nevada regardless of the length of time said applicant had been engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery in Nevada prior to February 21, 1919. However, in Section 5 of Chapter 17, there was a grandfather clause or a four-year clause that is to be noted. This clause allowed and demanded licensing of non-graduate empirics who have been practicing veterinary medicine in the State of Nevada for four years or longer prior to February 21, 1919. Housekeeping practices were set up by the board with the following rules:
The offices of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners shall be in Carson City. Regular meetings with the Board shall be held on the first Monday of May and the first Monday of November of each year. Special meetings of the Board may be called by the President for the examination of applicants for license or the transaction of other business. The President would designate the time, place, and purpose of such meetings. All applicants for license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery in the State of Nevada shall be required to pass an examination in the many listed responsibilities of professional training that were accepted in Nevada at that time. However, the grandfather clause or the four-year clause did exempt these certain few who were not graduates and who had been in practice for four years or more.

A special meeting was called by the President to be held in the offices of the Nevada State Sheep Commission in Reno at 8 pm on July 10, 1919. This meeting was called for the purpose of examining applicants for license to practice in the State of Nevada. The business conducted at this board was for the chartered Board members to examine themselves and find that they were duly qualified for license. This was done with Dr. Nicholas being granted license No. 1, Dr. Baker license No. 2 and Dr. Dill license No. 3. Additional Special Meetings were held in the offices of the Nevada State Sheep Commission in the next ensuing days for licensing of applicants who requested a license to practice.

On July 16, 1919, the application of J. W. Hoffman of Fallon, Nevada was acted upon under the four-year clause with an affidavit that he had been in practice for more than four years in the State of Nevada. A license was granted to Mr. Hoffman.

On July 17, 1919, the application of Frank Arthur Hardin, also of Fallon, was granted for license under the four-year clause.

On November 22, 1919, the application of T. P. Schwartz of Sparks, Nevada was acted upon under the four-year clause and a license was granted.

The Board met on December 26, 1921 to issue three licenses and there were no more Board Meetings until December 3, 1924. The routine activities of the Board were carried out by the Secretary, who was in consultation with the other members of the Board by telephone or correspondence.

The first action and request for reciprocity with other states was acted upon at the December 3, 1924 meeting held at the Gazette Building in Reno, Nevada. Dr. Preston Hoskins, Secretary of the AVMA, and Dr. Howard Welch of the Department of Veterinary Science from the University of Montana approached the board concerning a matter of an agreement for reciprocity of license between various states. Following discussion, the Board agreed that they would approve such reciprocity agreement if only graduate veterinarians from recognized colleges were included in such an agreement.

On August 7, 1925, a reorganization meeting of the Board was called at the Gazette Building in Reno. Dr. Nicholas had resigned from the board and was replaced by Dr. Edwin S. Glace who was appointed by the Governor. At this meeting Dr. Glace was elected President to replace the retiring member who held this office.

There were no meetings held by the Board during the years 1926 to 1927. However, Dr. Edwin Glace, President of the Board, died in Reno in August 1927.

On April 23, 1928, a meeting of the State Board was held with Dr. George E. Banburger being the new member to replace Dr. Glace. The matter of certain non-graduates, who had been reported to have been practicing without a license, was discussed. It was agreed that the Board should get more definite information regarding these cases before any action is taken.

At the October 1928 meeting it was reported to the Board that John Dodson, a non-graduate, was practicing in Carson City without a license. It was thought to be a further infringement in that Dr. Dodson was doing the veterinary work for the State Prison, a State Agency. As this meeting it was also reported that non-graduates, Simmons and Howard, were practicing in Mason and Smith Valley without a license. It was further reported that they were vaccinating cattle for abortion disease and guaranteeing a prevention and cure. Following the report of these violations, it was agreed that the Board would request Attorney General Viskin for advice concerning proceedings in case information was obtained to the effect these men were indeed practicing illegally. The Board agreed that they would abide by any instructions from the Attorney General prior to and during prosecution should it become necessary.

At the beginning of 1930, the Board was reorganized with Dr. Dill retiring from the Board. Dr. Grand Woodward replaced Dr. Dill as Secretary-Treasurer. At this time a check in the amount of $87.35 was delivered to the newly elected Secretary, Dr. Woodward. This amount represented the total cash on hand in the Board’s treasury at this time.

THE YEAR 1930 – 1960

During the next three decades history showed that the State Board of Stock Commissioners, the State Veterinary Association and the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners all made significant progress in size and in accomplishments.

The three member Board of Stock Commissioners continued to function until 1949. At that time, the Legislature amended the statutes to increase the board membership from three to five. Three members of this board must have been active in livestock production, one member from the dairy industry and one member from general farming.

On July 1, 1959, a sixth member of the board was set forth by Legislative edict. This man was to represent the apiary industry.

In 1929, the Board headquarters were moved from the University of Nevada, Reno campus to offices downtown in the Cladianos Building at 118 West Second Street in Reno, Nevada.

In 1935, there was statutory authorization thereby the State Board of Stock Commissioners would adopt designation as the State Department of Agriculture, whereby simplifying procedures in contact with other state departments.

On June 29, 1960, the department, with the exception of the Animal Disease Laboratory, moved to 350 Capitol Hill Avenue in Reno, Nevada. Shortly after this move, the State Board of Stock Commissioners became designated as the State Board of Agriculture by Legislative direction. The Animal Disease Laboratory remained on the campus in the old Dairy Building throughout this move.

In 1927, the additional responsibilities of the Board involving plant quarantine and control, as well as their wide spread and in-depth responsibilities in animal diseases, caused the formation of two distinct divisions. The Division of Plant Industry was activated during this year and the Division of Animal Industry, which was really the basic division within the board, was set forth as a separate division. The responsibilities of the Division of Animal Industry continued to increase during this interim period. A number of disease programs leading to control and eradication were joint efforts of the Divisions of Animal Industry in this State and the United States Department of Agriculture. One that was most noteworthy in this category was the Brucellosis eradication campaign.

During the years 1930 to 1960, the number of veterinarians coming to Nevada, becoming licensed by the Board to practice and joining the State Association showed a modest growth. However, the numbers weren’t enough that neither the Board nor the Association could maintain offices and secretarial services in an efficient manner. By convenience, the Division of Animal Industry became the headquarters and offices for administration of both the Veterinary Board and the Association. This arrangement gave a more or less permanent home to the Association and the Board with filing space, telephone availability and a certain amount of secretarial service available to all times. This made a very workable arrangement for all concerned due to the modest number of veterinarians involved in these activities.

At the January 22, 1930 annual meeting of the Nevada State Veterinary Association which was held on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, 14 members of the Association were present. This represented 100% of the active membership of the Association. At this meeting, there was discussion of the American Veterinary Medical Association proposal to form a House of Delegates with each constituent association or each state association having an official delegate in attendance. Following discussion, the Nevada State Veterinary Association unanimously endorsed this plan and notified the AVMA that they were willing to participate.

During the first decade of 1930 to 1960 report, the Nevada State Veterinary Association met twice annually, with the annual meeting being held in January and a special meeting sometime during the middle of the summer. All of the meetings were held in Reno usually at the campus facility of the Department of Veterinary Science or the University Agriculture Building. These meetings although of modest attendance were of extremely high level with the literary portion of the meeting holding a substantial interest to all members present. During this period of time Equine Encephalomyelitis and Bovine Brucellosis were of major concern. Numerous out-of-state veterinarians who were considered to be an authority on these diseases were invited to attend the various meetings and give papers and slide demonstrations in regard to the present situation of disease availability, the diagnostic procedures, the efforts of control and all other matters that were pertinent.

A few commendable activities of the Association during this period of time were centered around the persistence of the membership. Earlier in this report it was noted that there was frustration and ultimate failure of a special committee to instigate meat and milk inspection in the City of Reno. This continued to be an ongoing public service desire of the Association. Due to the fact that the City of Reno was not receptive, a special committee was appointed to discuss meat and milk inspections on a statewide level at the next Legislative Session and to try and gain support for this activity and to find the most suitable state agency to carry out these responsibilities.

At the annual meeting held on January 27, 1939, it was felt that for the welfare of the Association and the benefits of the membership that some arrangement should be made for the entertainment of the wives of the members and other interested ladies incident to the next annual meeting of the Association. It was further discussed that there would be a strong possibility that it might be developed into some definite type of a Ladies Auxiliary to the Association. After discussion, it was unanimously moved, seconded and passed that this desire be looked into and a special committee be appointed to invite the ladies and provide entertainment at the next annual meeting to be held at a banquet the following January.

Another item that had been of much consternation to the membership of the Association was the final realization of the funds of the treasury that were in the account of the United Nevada Bank which was closed during the bank crisis of 1930. The amount on deposit of Association funds when the bank closed was $162.82. Since that time a total $105.15 was received in dividends and resulted in a total loss of $56.67. Upon motion made, seconded and unanimously carried this report of the financial situation of the Association was accepted and the casualty of the bank and the Association funds was laid to rest.

During World War II, 1942 to 1947, the meetings of the Association were limited to the annual meeting in January and limited to business meetings only. Due to transportation problems and wartime conditions, it was felt that the continuing education sessions with out-of-state speakers should be discontinued during this period of time.

At the business meeting in 1944, a new committee was formed to bring to the attention of the citizens of the State some publicity regarding the veterinary profession through newspaper or radio channels. This was the first organized effort of the Association in public relations activity as far as the general public would be concerned.

The next meeting, following the national emergency, was called to order on May 2, 1947. A discussion of activities in the state from a veterinary standpoint during the wartime was heard by various members. At this meeting, application from 12 veterinarians who had moved to the state and applied for membership in the Association were read, and upon motion, seconded and unanimous approval, the Secretary was instructed to cast a unanimous ballot presenting membership to these veterinarians. The large number of candidates was due to the fact that there had been no meeting for the previous years during the war time and the applications were being accepted even though there was no way to action.

Two noteworthy items were presented to the Association membership at the January 13 and 14, 1950 meeting. After the banquet held at the El Cortez Hotel on the evening of February 13, Mrs. Joseph B. Key presented a report on the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Nevada State Veterinary Association. Mrs. Key informed the membership that the Association had been organized that afternoon with Mrs. Joseph B. Key elected President, Mrs. Al Bernkrant, Vice President and Mrs. Warren Shoff, Secretary with Mrs. William Fisher, serving as Treasurer. Following the announcement, President Joseph B. Key of the Association complimented the ladies for their worthwhile effort in forming an auxiliary and expressed his feeling and that of the Association membership that the women’s auxiliary in the years to come would offer an excellent support group to the men’s association in public relations, meeting arrangements and all activities in which they could become involved.

At the Association Business Meeting on the following day, Mr. Wallace White, of the State Board of Health, gave an interesting and instructive talk on the formation and basic qualifications and activities of the Meat and Milk Sanitation Program of the State Health Department. The formation of the Meat and Milk Sanitation Program in the State Department of Health was partly the result of the lengthy and ongoing activities of this committee in the State Association. Following the presentation, Mr. White lead the discussion by the members present at the meeting and received the best wishes and good will of the veterinarians in this worthwhile program.

May 1989

The veterinary profession suffered a great loss with the recent death of John J. O’Harra, DVM and his wife Bette. Dr. O’Harra moved to Reno in 1951 and joined the staff of the Nevada State Department of Agriculture as a Veterinary Inspector. He was named Deputy State Veterinarian in 1954 in Las Vegas. He returned to Reno and was named the Assistant Director of the Division of Animal Industry. Dr. O’Harra became the director of the Division from 1960 until he retired in 1980. He was the Secretary-Treasurer and later the Executive Secretary for the Nevada State Veterinary Board and Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada State Veterinary Association from 1961 – 1984. He served as vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, president of the U.S. Animal Health Association, the Intermountain Veterinary Medical Association and the Western States Livestock Health Association.

September 1989

The Articles of Incorporation of the Nevada State Veterinary Association were amended on September 22, 1989 to change the name of the Association to the Nevada Veterinary Medical Association whose purpose and object is to advance the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health and agriculture. The Association provides a forum for the discussion of issues of importance to the veterinary profession and society and for the development of official positions. The Association is the voice for the profession in Nevada. The Nevada Veterinary Medical Association will promote good fellowship within the profession and advance inter-professional relationships and provide continuing educational opportunities for its membership.

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Nevada Veterinary Medical Association
P.O. Box 34420 Reno, NV 89533
phone 775.324.5344 | fax 775.323.1432 | e-mail: