Interview: Veterinary Treatment Facility’s new officer-in-charge talks clinic capabilities, pet care

Capt. Jeremy Gallman, left, officer-in-charge of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Veterinary Treatment Facility, examines Sgt. Rrichey, who is being escorted by Spc. Cara Spring, military working dog handler assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs)

Capt. Jeremy Gallman, left, officer-in-charge of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Veterinary Treatment Facility, visits with Sgt. Rrichey, center, and Spc. Cara Spring, military working dog handler, during a recent examination at the VTF. Spring and Rrichey are assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment. The double first letter in Rrichey’s name is associated with the Department of Defense’s Military Working Dog Breeding Program. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs)

Interview by Stephen Baack, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs

ANSBACH, Germany (Nov. 17, 2015) – Capt. Jeremy Gallman assumed his role as the officer-in-charge for the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Veterinary Treatment Facility in July.

Gallman comes to USAG Ansbach from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, where he served as chief of Andrews Branch Veterinary Services. Gallman holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Auburn University Montgomery and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Auburn University.

Now as the USAG Ansbach VTF officer-in-charge, Gallman leads his team in providing medical and surgical care to military working dogs and pets of eligible beneficiaries: active-duty service members, National Guardsmen, Reservists, and all of their dependent family members, and retired service members. The clinic is also responsible for performing food inspections throughout the USAG Ansbach footprint. The staff consists of Soldiers and civilians, including fellow veterinarian and local national Dr. Sandra Brosig.


Baack: From your perspective as the officer-in-charge, what are the clinic’s priorities?

Gallman: As far as the mission mandates, our main priority is taking care of the military working dogs. As far as the clinic here, it’s a NAF clinic, so it’s run with the idea of keeping a low overhead so that we can pass low costs on to our consumers – the eligible pet owners. My priorities are to provide top-notch customer service and timely care so they can get into appointments and that we have those available within a week or two of their request. I just want open access to care and to increase appointment availability to better serve our community. I don’t want people having to go off post if they don’t need to. It’s stressful for the pet owners if they have to go off post, and it can be a lot more expensive as well. This is one of your benefits for being in the military, so I’m here to make sure that you get those and that you have that access to care.


Baack: Do you ever run into situations where you have to turn away a customer to attend to a working dog?

Gallman: That’s never really been the case. It would occasionally happen in the past, when Dr. Brosig was the only one here, but that should be a rare occurrence from now on.


Baack: How is your staffing at the VTF these days?

Gallman: We’re fully staffed now.


Baack: What kind of capabilities does the Veterinary Treatment Facility have?

Gallman: We’re staffed and equipped now to do regular appointments – that’s what we call wellness appointments with vaccines and annual exams, routine bloodwork, attending to ongoing medical conditions and those types of things. We do that Monday through Thursday from 0830 to 1530. Those are our appointment hours. Then on Friday we’ve got sick call and walk-in wellness care (vaccines, etc.) availability, from 0830 to 1230 right now. Sick call, just like at the hospital, is on a walk-in basis. If you need something, you come right in. We’re staffed to handle that. As far as emergencies, we don’t see those, but we do, of course, stabilize any animal that needs to be stabilized as far as injuries or severe medical conditions to allow them to safely transition to off-post veterinary care.

As far as surgeries, we are going to start offering surgeries soon, including spays, neuters, and mass removals. We’re hoping to expand our capabilities and staffing to offer other procedures like bladder surgeries and various other abdominal surgical procedures, dental cleanings, tooth extractions, etc.

There’s also other diagnostic tests we can perform, such as ECGs, X-ray, ultrasound and routine lab tests. There are several types of blood work we can do for metabolic disorders, endocrine disorders, drug-monitoring tests, and testing for infectious diseases to try to ascertain what’s going on with a dog or cat. A lot of that is referred out, but some of that we can perform in-house now. We offer other services, like prescribing preventive products including heartworm and flea/tick products. We have medications for arthritis, heart and liver and kidney disease, common endocrine disorders, etc. We have a full pharmacy, so we’re stocked to take care of a lot of medical conditions.


Baack: You mentioned the possibility of pet owners having to go off post for emergencies. Have you worked with your counterparts off post?

Gallman: The few that I’ve seen and heard from do great work. So, there are great options here in the area. German veterinary schools are really good. To put people’s minds at ease, I think they’re all really good quality clinics. If people need emergency services, they can easily find clinics that provide it in the area.


Baack: I hear the VTF also has a mission at the Commissary. Can you tell me more about that?

Gallman: We have the animal mission, and the other half is the food inspection mission. We have a Soldier stationed at the Commissary, and a food inspection NCO as well. They perform other food inspection missions for all of the USAG Ansbach facilities that produce and/or store food. They are looking at food storage conditions, whether it’s dry goods or cold-hold or hot-hold – at all of the facilities where they have food, including the PX, the Shoppette, and the gas station. The primary mission is the Commissary because of the amount of food stored, sold, and cooked there.


Baack: As the officer-in-charge of the VTF, what have your goals been?

Gallman: There’s been a stigma that it’s impossible to get an appointment here. I want to make those appointments available to people so they don’t have to go off post and they’re not disgruntled about the fact that there are not enough available appointments. I want to reverse this trend and make more appointments available than our clients really need.

Another goal is posting our schedules to Facebook every month. We have our own Facebook page.

I want to expand services from what we’re doing for the wellness exams and vaccines to where we do more sick call – to where we do surgeries and dental cleanings so that we should be able to take care of 90 percent of the pets’ needs. The 10 percent exception is going to be the emergency services that we don’t provide.


Baack: Do you have anything else planned?

Gallman: I don’t have a date yet, but I do want to do an open house for the clinic. I think that would be a great way to do some community outreach and have people see what services we have available. That’s something to look forward to.


Baack: For Americans coming to Germany with pets, what should they know?

Gallman: The biggest thing is restricted breeds. This is what people need to know. It’s been a huge issue. Germany has Type 1 and Type 2 restricted breeds. The list is on this website. Type 1 are strictly not allowed here, which means they’re not allowed in housing for sure. And that’s just part of the host-nation agreement. We’re following those laws.

Type 2 are the dogs that are conditionally allowed. They tend to be thought of as being a little more aggressive. Those dogs, in order to stay in Germany, and specifically in this case in housing, have to undergo temperament testing which is performed at certain veterinarians who are licensed to do that. It costs anywhere from 150 to 300 Euros. If they pass, they get a waiver and paperwork that says they can stay in on-post housing. They have to turn that into housing, and they have to give us a copy here at the clinic as well. However, if they fail, they have to be removed from housing. That means they might be physically removed from housing by the MPs. So, that’s the biggest thing.

Failure to observe these rules in accordance with housing policy has been very problematic. I’ve seen three dog-fight incidents since July, and it’s been a headache for those owners. It incurs a lot of costs for them as well. Unfortunately they weren’t told about it before they came to Germany. Quite frankly, I’ve seen plenty of people here from the U.S. who had no idea that was a law. I’m trying now to reach back and let people know in the states.


Baack: Is there any way to do a temperament test before you get here?

Gallman: Not really, because it’s a German law, so it has to be performed by the German vets who are licensed to do that. So, even though I’m here in Germany, I couldn’t be licensed to do it. And there’s only a few who can actually do it.


Baack: What do USAG Ansbach community members need to know while they’re here in Germany?

Gallman: One interesting thing is that if you’re traveling internationally with your pets, you need to have an EU pet passport from an off-post German veterinarian. We can’t do that here at any of the military veterinary facilities.


Baack: Can you elaborate on the pet passport?

Gallman: They’ll have to go to an off-post German veterinarian. They’ll have to have the dog or cat with them so they can scan the microchip to confirm that’s the animal with that ID. Then they’ll make sure they have up-to-date rabies vaccines. So, they’ll have to have all their records and the pet with them. Lastly they’ll perform a physical examination, and then they’ll issue them the pet passport.


Baack: As far as registering your pet, what do owners need to do?

Gallman: When pet owners in-process with the garrison, they have to go to housing. If they’re going to be placed in on-post housing, they have to get the pets registered as soon as possible. There’s a timeline. It’s in the same memo as the timeline for the temperament testing. So, they have to get them registered with both housing and us. We give them the registration form. They complete it and give it back to us. Then we give them a copy to take to housing. We can walk them through that process. To make the process easier, I’m going to try to get us onto the in-processing checklist, so it will help prompt pet owners to come to the clinic to start the process.


Baack: What about the end of their assignment? What do people need to know before they depart Ansbach?

Gallman: For the end of their assignment, they need to plan accordingly up to six months out to get the animals ready to PCS back home. This doesn’t just apply to pets going home to the states; certain countries such as Fiji, Guam, Korea, Japan, and other island countries, have stricter standards for rabies control. So, that requires months and months of preparation, or they will definitely be quarantined at the owner’s cost. That’s something we can walk them through. I want pet owners to advocate for themselves and their pets, so I’ve put those resources on the website. Helpful resources include the CDC, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – APHIS – and the U.S. Army Public Health Center.


Baack: What are some common mistakes that pet owners from the U.S. make when they first arrive in Germany?

Gallman: That leads into the biggest problem, which is abandonment of pets. That’s a huge deal. We don’t have a stray facility on post, and there’s not really a good means for adoption or re-homing of the pets. So, a lot of people drop them off on the German economy at the animal shelters. This is terrible for our host-nation relationship, but pet abandonment happens a lot. And it’s something the Army has a bad reputation for here in Germany. It’s a European and especially a Germany-wide problem that we’re trying to combat at all vet clinics right now.

Our command is really big on trying to get people to responsibly re-home their pets. What that in reality ends up being is a pet that stays on Katterbach for years. So, you see pets get re-homed over and over again with each assignment. It’s better than total abandonment. I’d much prefer keeping families intact, and to enable our pets to travel with their owners is one of my top priorities.


Baack: Is not prepping the main reason people abandon their pets?

Gallman: Yes. That, or – and there’s nothing we can do about this one – turn-around time for orders – like you get your levy brief, you get your orders and now you’ve got to fly out. AMC flights only have so many allowances for pets that can fly aboard any given aircraft, so inevitably a certain number of pets will have to be shipped separately from their owners – at a considerable cost to the owners, which is paid out-of-pocket. You could be talking $2,000 per pet. That’s just from here to the states, or vice versa. So, you take someone who’s living off post who has four cats and a dog – $10,000? It’s not going to happen. So they might be forced to take give them up for adoption at a German humane shelter. That’s something we can’t do much about, but I want to do everything in my power to help with avoidable cases of abandonment.


Baack: Other than urge them to find their pets a new home.

Gallman: Yes, and I did put a reminder in our “PCSing with a Pet” PowerPoint about how the key is trying to get your flight set up as soon as possible. As soon as you have an inclination you might be leaving, try to get that booked. That’s not always possible if you don’t have your orders, but the biggest thing the pet owners can do is try to get those flights as soon as possible, or at least try to get the PCS paperwork set up ahead of time so they can get their pet rabies-tested, vaccinated, etc. And then finally, within 10 days of their arrival in the states or whatever country they’re going to, they need to bring their pet to the clinic so we can perform a physical examination and issue a health certificate for that pet.


Baack: From your perspective, how big of a responsibility is taking care of a pet?

Gallman: You’re solely responsible for that animal. If you don’t put down cat food or dog food, they’ll literally starve to death. They’re just completely and utterly dependent on you for survival, and I think people lose sight of that sometimes. Additionally, they need grooming, bathing, nail trims, etc. It’s akin to caring for an infant, but that applies to their entire life since they never get more independent. That’s probably the biggest thing most people don’t think about, is that they’re utterly dependent on you.

The other consideration is that if you’re going to have a pet, you’re going to need to be able to afford to treat it for illness, because they’re going to get sick. So, you need to be prepared and ask yourself, “Am I really financially stable and able to provide this animal for what they are going to need in the future?” – not just now, but when they’re old as well.

The other consideration, specifically for our population, is the fact that we move around so much whether we’re deployed, in school, TDY, etc. We need to be able to ensure we’re going to be able to provide a continuous home for an animal before we get it. Just think about this – if you pick up a stray in Italy and keep it for a couple of years, but then you have to abandon it, are you really doing right by that pet?


Baack: What do you like about caring for animals?

Gallman: I practice what used to be called “small animal medicine”, because of the pets’ small size, but in the last few years it’s become “companion animal medicine.” This is indicative of the type of patients we care for – what we’re really doing is taking care of someone’s companion. We see that all the time, whether it’s a widow/widower living alone with a pet, a single student living with a pet, etc. That pet means so much to that person, and the use of that term just makes us more aware of the fact that these pets are critical to their owner’s overall well-being. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to preserve that bond and just lengthen that relationship as much as possible.

The medicine aspect is exciting too, of course. I like the fact that they can’t tell you what’s wrong, which drives you to advocate for their needs and to try to make them feel better, because they certainly can’t help themselves out. The sheer variety of skills and knowledge I have to use on a daily basis is limitless, whether it be radiology, laboratory diagnostics, surgery, dentistry, or internal medicine – this is what really sets veterinary medicine apart from other medical professions and what keeps our job so interesting.


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