The mission of the Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) is to improve the health of food and fiber producing animals, companion animals, sport and recreational animals, exotic animals, and wildlife. These activities protect and improve public health, promote environmental stewardship, and foster economic growth.
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 with Cornell for the operation of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In 1974, funds were appropriated for the construction of a 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.
- 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.
- The New York state veterinary diagnostic laboratory shall:
- Evaluate domestic and wild animal populations for evidence of disease agents that may cause human disease;
- Maintain capability to respond to disease outbreaks in animals;
- Establish diagnostic testing capabilities to establish herd health status and evaluation of disease programs;
- Support disease surveillance and monitoring programs of domestic, zoo and wild animals;
- Support veterinarians by analyzing and interpreting samples obtained from clinical cases; and
- Evaluate, adjust and improve New York’s ability to recognize diseases that impact animal populations.
The expanded mandate of the 2001 legislation and the substantial increases in test services housed in the Diagnostic Laboratory building necessitated the construction of a new facility to accommodate the service needs and to provide a safe working environment for laboratory staff. In 2003, planning began on a new NYS Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory which was to include testing activities that were housed in 13 locations in the Ithaca area. The new facility was occupied in September 2010. Within the new building is a state of the art necropsy space for the Anatomic Pathology unit, office and laboratory space for the Quality Milk Production Service, and office space for the coordinators of contract services provided to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
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 180,000 submissions per year that generate over 1 million individual tests. 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.
This economic impact of providing an effective surveillance and early disease detection for the State of New York is truly significant when one analyzes animal production data. The data are that the livestock, poultry and their products provided $3.166 billion to farmers in 2014. This accounts for 58 percent of all cash agricultural receipts for New York producers. Milk sales account for over one-half of total agricultural receipts, with 13.7 billion pounds, at a value of $2.417 billion. This milk production enables NYS to be the nation’s largest producer of yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream. New York livestock producers marketed 34.9 million pounds of red meat during 2014, bringing in $449 million in cash receipts. Sales from cattle and calves accounted for $415 million; hogs and pigs returned $20.6 million; sheep and goats and their products provided $19 million; poultry and eggs $144.6 million; horses, ponies, mules, and burros $58 million.
The economic impact of a disease event in companion animals 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. It is estimated (2011) that the equine industry directly contributes $1.7 billion to the NYS economy. In addition to the economic impact, 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, thereby increasing the possibility of emerging disease situations if/when diseases jump across species barriers.
At the national level, the AHDC was 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 was one of the original seven NAHLN laboratories providing a full range of services in testing for diseases including Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever, Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease, and Chronic Wasting Disease, and Scrapie. 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 were 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 meet the management and technical requirements specified by the AAVLD. Such a quality assurance program is essential for the laboratory to provide assurance to our clients that test results released by the AHDC will meet the highest standards of validity.