Maintaining the health of the Navy's marine mammals is central to the Navy Marine Mammal Program's mission and focus. A full-time staff of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and biologists ensures that necessary care and management processes are in place to provide for all the health needs of the animals. A veterinarian and a veterinary technician are on call around the clock, 7 days a week. The NMMP is in strict compliance with all statutory requirements, DoD requirements, and federal laws regarding the proper care of the animals.
The primary focus of the health care program is to keep the marine mammals healthy and fit for duty. Cutting-edge marine mammal health care techniques and technologies are actively evaluated and developed. Research to support the health of the animals incorporates fields such as immunology, virology, epidemiology, microbiology, toxicology, and vaccination development. In this regard, the Navy continues its time-honored tradition of being an important National resource for the study of marine mammal nutrition, medicine, physiology, and ecology.
The NMMP is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC). AAALAC is a nonprofit non-regulatory organization that promotes high standards of animal care and use, improves laboratory animal well-being, and enhances life sciences research through accreditation. It is a non-governmental independent organization that monitors and ensures strict animal care standards throughout the world. Membership is voluntary so it shows a level of care that is exceptional and over and above what is required by law. It includes a triennial site visit and a comprehensive review of all procedures and performance for the care and handing of the animals. The 2002 re-accreditation letter to the NMMP noted: "The Council commends you and your staff for providing and maintaining an excellent program of laboratory animal care and use."
A crucial aspect of animal health care is that the animals are conditioned to cooperatively participate in routine examinations, including blood draws and ultrasound scans. As leaders in the field of marine mammal medicine, the NMMP actively collaborates with investigators to find ways to improve the understanding of marine mammal health and physiology. Our student programs offer exciting and novel learning opportunities. Through such efforts, the NMMP continues to be an important part of the future of marine mammal medicine.
The Navy takes great pride in providing the finest possible veterinary care to its marine mammals. The cornerstone of our animal health care program is preventive medicine. This includes routine physical examinations, nutrition and sanitation oversight, extensive data collection and management, deployment support, and development of advanced clinical technology.
Photo courtesy Navy News Stand. Search for 'dolphin'.
U.S. Army Veterinary Staff
In addition to civilian veterinary staff, there has always been a U.S. Air Force or Army officer veterinarian assigned to the NMMP as well as supporting corpsmen or veterinary technicians. In April 1980, the Veterinary Corps Branch of the U.S. Army was appointed as the DoD executive agent for veterinary services and one detachment is assigned to the NMMP. They are an integral component of the NMMP animal health care system.