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Santa Claus’ official veterinarian okays reindeer for flight

John Howe, DVM, seeks a team of volunteer veterinarians to oversee the well-being of Santa’s holiday helpers on Christmas Eve

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Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have been cleared for travel by the North Pole’s veterinarian.

John Howe, DVM, Santa’s personal animal caregiver and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), visited the North Pole earlier this month to give the reindeer a preflight health check, ensure they were up to date on their vaccinations, and make sure they have the required certificates allowing them to travel across state and national borders.

“After a full examination and review of their medical records, I’m pleased to say Santa’s reindeer are healthy, in great shape, and ready to fly on Christmas Eve,” Dr. Howe says.

The annual exam includes a health check to ensure the team is not showing any signs of disease, such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, or chronic wasting disease, which might affect their ability to fly or make other animals sick.

“We need to make sure the reindeer aren’t harboring any diseases they could then potentially spread to animals in other parts of the world,” Howe says. “At the same time, making sure they’re healthy also means they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that long global flight.”

Santa, who was unavailable for comment, issued a statement, saying the health and well-being of his reindeer is essential to the success of his busiest night of the year.

“Without my reindeer, there simply would be no Christmas,” he said. “Proper veterinary care ensures that, year in and year out, my team and I are able to deliver presents to boys and girls around the world. Dr. Howe is definitely on the ‘nice list’ again this year.”

With less than two weeks to go until the big day, Howe is ringing his sleigh bells for volunteers to join the Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System (E.L.V.E.S.), a group whose job is to oversee the well-being of the nine reindeer.

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To join, AVMA members can download a badge to let their clients know they are part of Santa’s E.L.V.E.S. support team. To participate, click here.

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