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The Life & Times of
Kenneth L Easton DVM
- Veterinarian Extraordinary -

Opening comments -

Lois Stevens has often been called the "cat lady ", she is the Mississaugan who City hall took on to end the community's efforts at trying to save cats in the last few years of the 1980's. It was a sad case of what happens to those who try to help those who have no voice and impress everyone but the Mayor. Ken Easton was one of the main Vets who help in the effort and spoke a number of times but no one could stop the grinding effort from City hall to put a end to the Cat shelter, not even the local Ward Councillor David Culham, could find reason in the Mayor's chair.

Lois writes about Ken;

I first met Ken in the late 80's. He was a quiet spoken gentleman, with great compassion for all animals.

He had many dreams regarding animal welfare and with tenacity he followed them. He spoke with elegance on behalf of animals and he wrote superb letters to politicians to change Bill C-50 in Parliament.

The Veterinarian world will miss you Ken.

His Obituary - Sept. 21, 2006.

Theory of Innovation.

The veterinarian's role in animal welfare - Kenneth L. Easton.

Toronto Star Sept. 21, 2006 - C18 - Obituaries

Class of O.V.C. '58, University of Guelph. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Transcended peacefully Monday morning, with Marita holding his hand. Beloved husband at Marita (MacRury) Easton, he will be sadly missed. Predeceased by Barbara May, mother of their children, Bambi, Paul and Kim. Dear Father-in-law to Marisa. Dear brother of John and his wife Muriel. Grandfather to Katrine, Samuel, baby Megan, Amanda, Shane, Samantha, and Terri Ann. Grandsan Sean will miss the great philosophical debates and scientific input. Ken will be especially missed by devoted Puppy dog Clintus Minimus and the cats.

Ken ran a housecall service for companion animals and was known to appear on an emergency response in the middle of the night. He lived life fully and worked very hard, enjoying a slice of pie and coffee with clients along the way. Veterinary life was his passion, pushing for amendments to Bill C-50, and ethical treatment of animals. Ken encouraged all to look upon our, role as "guardians to" rather than owners of our pets. He will be missed by friends old, and new. Thanks for the friendship from West Park and the wonderful staff and doctors who put up with his stubborn streak.

Ken had an open mind, attending conferences and learning new approaches at every turn. He was bestowed the honour of a Lifetime Member of the Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine. Ken was afforded many happy years with the Ontario Humane Society, thanks to Tom Hughes and the Mobile Clinic. Ken even diagnosed "Flipper" of the 60's fame. Marita and Ken loved to travel while they could, before COPD slowed him down. He had boundless energy. Ken is now a part of the tall pines, free as a bird, one of God's sentient creatures, with a "spirit that transcends the species".

Friends may call at the Turner & Porter Peel Chapel, 2180 Hurontario St., Mississauga (Hwy.10, N of QEW) on Thursday from 5-9 p.m.

A Celebration of Ken's Life will be held in the Chapel on Friday September 22, 2006 at 3 o'clock. If desired, remembrances may be made to the Ontario Humane Society.

Turner & Porter

Theory of Innovation

Kenneth L Easton DVM

    One morning in October, while I sat on the bed and slowly warmed up the engine of my mind, I casually flipped the pages of a new publication by MacLean's, "Leaders and Dreamers". I was riveted by the article "Creative Juices" by Robert Marshall in which he states that "True innovation flows from the dedicated, persistent application of a free thinking, rule flouting, boundary crossing, convention busting mindset". To express this profound psychological statement as a statistical equation necessary for scientific scrutiny he borrowed from Albert Einstein to offer I = mc2, where I is innovation, M the matter at hand and C is creativity. Clearly, creative juices must flow exponentially from the mind, body, environment and or network and meet at the precise moment for success.

    Then reveries of my career wafted across my consciousness as I tested this hypothesis. I have been both congratulated and cursed for my thoughts, won and lost financial fortunes and have experienced careers in companion animal clinical medicine, animal welfare, regulatory veterinary medicine and companion animal mobile medicine. A few stories leap out of the everyday humdrum that remain in my memory as proof of innovation (with a confidence level of 99%).

    It was June 1968 when "Flipper" had performed his way from Florida up the Atlantic coast to Canada with plans to circle back down the Pacific and Gulf coasts. The dolphin had behaved flawlessly until he arrived in Mississauga where he refused to surface. The handler phoned Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine requesting a veterinarian with aquatic experience. In Mississauga? Back then they didn't even have anyone at Guelph! However, they recommended me, as I was a Scuba Diver (that's when my lungs were good). I accepted the case as the handler had already ruled out all other approaches.

    I made a house call at the shopping mall and observed the dolphin from the performing stage. His activity appeared normal to me when I compared it to that of free-swimming dolphins in Florida. Yet he would not break the surface of the pool except to breathe. Wishing a closer examination, I donned my wet suit and tank and joined the dolphin. My company delighted him and he swam around me, brushing up against me like a cat. I realised he particularly relished my stroking his back with my hand. We were frolicking and rolling when my eyes caught sight of the pool surface from below. It was covered with Mississauga soot! These specks were invisible from above, but cast a pall of black fog from below. His back navigated this sea of pollution with every breath. Diagnosis: acute allergic dermatitis. Prescription: Skim the muck from the water surface and Prednisone 20 mg in fish TID. Prognosis: Excellent. He was performing the next day. Creative juices: the opportunity to explore the matter at hand from the perspective of the patient by crossing the species boundary.

    I heard a calling during my years of clinical practice- a realization that altruism does exist in the total trust exhibited by an animal through the human animal bond, and a commitment to reciprocate that trust. In 1972 I left private practice to join the Ontario Humane Society for whom I established the Veterinary Department. We outfitted a 4f-foot recreational vehicle donated by Ida Barrett of Windsor, Ontario as a mobile hospital with the intention of taking veterinary medicine to areas of the province where there was nothing. This evolved into a twice-yearly circle of Ontario that we literally called the largest practice in Ontario. Cultural differences became obvious between the independent adaptability of those in northern Ontario and the service expectations of those in the south. I enjoyed my time in the north.

    I remember a clinic we hosted in Moosonee, May 1974. After months of arrangement discussion between the town council and OHS, I packed my equipment into two suitcases and flew from Timmins in a DC3 Dakota, of World War II fame. I was told that my taxi was dispatched and that the clinic would be ready when I arrived. A fifty's vintage Ford 1/2 ton pick up jolted me over the foot deep ruts they called roads before arriving at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Within minutes my equipment was arranged between two doors on the back porch to facilitate directional flow for the line of aboriginals snaking across the parking lot. Most requests were for health assessments and vaccination for the Husky, Malamute and Samoyed type sled dogs. One person, whose name was John Paul Peter had nothing visible until the registration table, at which time he pulled "Tiny" from his parka pocket- a Chihuahua. During the Christian crusade period of Canadian history, the Eskimos and Indians realised that they could ease their abuse if they accepted the name of one disciple. John Paul Peter had tripled that protection and now was about to challenge his beliefs. Almost from birth "Tiny" had been afflicted with bilateral cherry eye, a chronic-enlargement of the hardarian glands, which prevented retraction of the third eyelids with ensuing central blindness. Examination revealed otherwise normal eyes.

    We instructed John Paul Peter to leave "Tiny" with us and to re-traverse the line. We anaesthetised the three-year-old dog, enucleated the hardarian glands and popped each membrana nictitans into its rightful position. By the time John Paul Peter again reached the head of the line, "Tiny" was up and enjoying his new broad sight. John Paul Peter picked him up at the shoulders to study his face with a long conspicuous silence, until erupting with the statement: "Doctor, you put in eyes"!

    My father, who had a long and distinguished career as a psychiatrist with the Ontario Government had been expressing his concern about my income after retirement. He had seen his patients' fortunes expand with abandon in the nineteen twenties only to crash with no safety net in the thirties. He had foregone the attraction of personal achievement for the pension plan of the civil servant. I put my chasing of dreams on hold and joined Agriculture Canada at age 40 to qualify for a full pension at age 60.

    My dreams and passions however persisted in surfacing to counteract the boredom of inspecting a conveyer belt production line steeped in conventional diagnoses created by intensive farming agriculture. At age 42 I competed for and won the opportunity to earn the graduate Diploma in Veterinary Preventive Medicine that was offered once per year to aspiring civil servants. I returned to the Ontario Veterinary College for one year that was both the most demanding and the most rewarding of my life. I studied statistics, epidemiology, computer programming, bacteriology and exotic viral diseases alongside students almost the age of my own children.

    My curious mind found total release to pursue knowledge held in abeyance for the past 20 years. I prepared my thesis on soil transmission of porcine tuberculosis so that I might further understand the affliction of my lungs today. One issue that I had identified during my early training period was the lack of specific trace-back information. Governments preferred their numbering systems, while producers, truckers and stockyard personnel insisted on using theirs. Therefore, when a disease was diagnosed at the abattoir, trace-back to the true farm of origin was haphazard at best. Should Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (Mad Cow) have emerged in the 1970's the absence of credible trace-back would have ignited a political world war 3. Discussion of my concerns over the next few years with professors at University of Guelph confirmed that an implanted electronic identification chip might serve to positively identify an animal from farm gate to consumer plate, and to replace tattoos and dog tags for dogs and even opening the identification of cats.

    The problem in 1976 though was the absence of the microchip. Electronic transmission of information required whirling machinery that filled the basement of one building at University of Guelph. Personal computers made their debut in the 1980's. Thanks to worldwide contacts through Agriculture Canada I found the Los Alamos Institute of Technology to be developing an electronic signal for use in range cattle and wildlife. Los Alamos Institute is famous for development of an earlier technology - that of the atom bomb. Further meetings with these eminent scientists developed the passive implantable chip and the active hand held interrogator. These products travelled north up the Atlantic coast as Pet Net and up the Pacific coast as AVID. We recently know who has won that battle for supremacy. I thank the Government of Canada for believing in me sufficiently for true innovation, even though they got all the patent rights.

    My commitment to animal walfare maintained my association with the Ontario Humane Society as president of the Peel Branch. This opened doors outside the box of veterinary medicine to study the motivation of other lay activist groups such as animal rescue, animal protection, vegetarian and animal rights. Even though there were many individuals with agendas too narrow for public support, there was one overall binding purpose - to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. In 1985 the Peel Branch OHS hosted the first "Animal Health Week" in Mississauga, an event that invited participation of all diverse groups. Word of this co-operative event reached the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. A new committee was struck and Animal Health Week was launched across Canada. Veterinary medicine took a great leap as leader in Animal Welfare.

    I accomplished my goal of pension from the Federal government in 1994. My promise to again chase my dreams was saddened however by the death of my wife Barbara, as it was she who encouraged me to enter veterinary medicine when we were in high school. I established a companion animal mobile practice to fill the void. This precipitated the College of Veterinarians of Ontario to publish Subsection Four of the Minimum Standards of Practice, for fear of "flouting of rules and busting of convention". My present wife Marita, a former school teacher found me in the yellow pages when she required a house call for her 3 cats because of her sight impairment from Retinitis Pigmentosa. Her intelligence, humour and philosophy blended so well with mine that we married and chased dreams together. We added pet behaviour consultation to our repertoire as this I could share with my wife while analysing the environment via house call.

    Development of the Pet Safe Program by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association afforded a further chance to share my life with Marita. Veterinarian and teacher brought our insights to the table developing the connection between animal and human abuse. We again saw a melding of purpose between police, veterinary medicine, schools. humane societies, children's aid societies, women's shelters and senior's residences to stop the cycle of violence.

    Now that our days of chasing dreams are over, I plan to record those dreams in my book, "Fear no Evil".

    Modern Veterinary Medicine is rewarding for an alpha personality. Insecurity, however, makes us hesitate to stray from the algorithm approach to problem solving. Freethinking differentiates the innovative Veterinarian from the technical Veterinarian. Whenever convention threatens to box you in, step out of the box, spin your creative juices and experience the starburst of innovation.

From Can Vet J - Volume 45, Dec. 2004 COMMENTARY

The veterinarian's role in animal welfare

Kenneth L. Easton

    Word that you are a veterinarian will elicit various responses from people with different interests: a pet supporter will categorize you as a caring, efficient, knowledgeable doer; a farmer will categorize you similarly and add physical strength and endurance; a natural sportsperson will see you similarly and also expect you to have an intricate knowledge of each species; a person involved in the extremes of the animal welfare movement will be disappointed in your lack of passion for his or her own narrow agenda; and clients who have been faced with the bill for routine hospital or surgical therapy might well complain that the costs are excessive, if they are comparing them with the costs for human health care under a provincial health care program. Little wonder that veterinarians are usually reluctant to announce their profession at social events.

    Besides the threat of being stereotyped from external perception, the veterinarian faces issues of internal perception, namely, (i) lack of veterinary education in animal welfare, (ii) difficulty in assessing welfare, (iii) differing attitudes to animals within the profession, antl (iv) some degree of conflict. between veterinarians' vocation and their interest in making a good living (1). The bottom line of all this negative perception results in a veterinarian being loath to take a leadership role in animal welfare issues.

    Amendments to redefine animal welfare in the Criminal Code of Canada, when finally cleared from government wrangling, will end the ineptitude of current law but will immediately open the legal system for challenges from angles that were not possible when animals were "owned items." A new section is now proposed wherein an animal is a living being whose sentience is protected by the law of our humane culture. The essence of this law is enshrined in the 5 freedoms of the Brambell Report (2) as they have guided all humane legislation for the past 40 years:

    Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition  -- by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor;

    Freedom from discomfort  -- by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;

    Freedom from pain, injury, and disease  -- by prevention or rapid diagnoses and treatment;

    Freedom from fear and distress  -- by ensuring conditions that avoid mental suffering; and

    Freedom to express normal behavior  -- by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal's own kind.

    Alterations to the Criminal Code are already being manipulated in the legal system. Court settlements for costs have increased dramatically beyond the "monetary value" of the animal to include pain and suffering by both the animal and the caregiver. Lawyers, facing the lack of education in animal welfare and purporting to set precedents as the new definitions are tested by individual cases, will immediately turn to the veterinarian as the obvious leader. Veterinarians make up the only animal-oriented group that is also a profession. No other animal-oriented group is invested with the public trust (1) and, as opposed to the animal welfare extremists, albeit operating with best intentions, veterinarians have the training and knowledge of the scientific approach.

    As never before, veterinarians stand on the brink of leadership in animal welfare topics. If they fail to avail of this window of opportunity, I see only chaos of anarchy as the narrow agendas of animal rightists clash. To borrow the writing of Alexandre (Sasha) Trudeau in his coverage of the war in Iraq, "Canada's answer to a confused world should be legions of skilled soldiers of peace who bring order, hope and humanity where superpowers have trod"(3). For animal welfare, the veterinary profession should provide these legions of leaders representing an empathetic superpower.


1. Hewson CI Focus on animal welfare. Can Vet J 2003;44:335-336.

2. Brambell FWR. Report of the technical committee to inquire into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems Cmnd 2836. Norwich: HMSO 1965.

3. Trudeau A. The Theft of Baghdad. Maclean's 2003;April 28: 18-22.

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