For some time I have wanted to write an article about safety of veterinarians when dealing with livestock, chutes and other job-related tasks (see “Better safe than sorry”). I was reminded of the importance of this topic when Dee Griffin, DVM, MS, posted an e-mail message about the death of his in-law, Eddie Fisher, DVM, of Winfield, Kan., in October. Fisher was mauled by one of his bulls at his veterinary clinic.

Griffin says Fisher, a hired hand and son-in-law were vaccinating and pregnancy checking a group of Fisher’s Angus cows. “They had sorted the herd bull into a pen adjacent to the working area,” Griffin says. Midway through chores Dr. Fisher cut through the pen holding the bull headed back to the clinic to get additional supplies. “The Angus bull hit him from the back and before observers could get the bull out of the pen, Dr. Fisher’s back was broken, his chest crushed and lungs collapsed, his shoulder and leg broken in multiple places,” Griffin says. Fisher was air-lifted to Wichita and lapsed into a coma three days after the incident and died eight days after the attack from a blood clot.

Information from Oregon State University states that bulls are responsible for more than half of the fatalities related to livestock.

A similar incident happened to Tulare, Calif. agricultural instructor, Max Corbett, in September when the dairy bull at the school district’s farm charged and attacked, killing him. In 2005, large-animal veterinarian Bruce Van Zee, DVM, Oakland, Iowa, died several days after being attacked by a bull.

And as we see from the experience of Max Thornsberry, DVM, (“Better safe than sorry”) cows can be just as dangerous in close quarters without an adequate escape route, and Thornsberry is missing some fingers to prove it.

“I think we all forget our body doesn’t move as fast as our mind remembers,” Griffin notes. “I think we all forget our body doesn’t heal as fast as it once did. I think we all forget how devastating to our families us being in an avoidable accident could be.”

Safety is our most important objective, Griffin reminds us. “Safety for yourself, safety of the people you are working with, safety of the animals you are working with and safety of the intended food product from which the animals are being raised to produce.”

So as they used to say on every episode of the TV show Hill Street Blues, let’s be careful out there.