Agri Leader

Retired veterinarian stays active with ag community

Central Florida's Agri-LeaderLike many veterinarians, Dr. John Causey is full of good on-the-job “tales.” “I had a monkey pull a gun on me,” said Causey. That was in Highlands County, where he lives. Also local was the horse that crashed through the back window of a Hyundai and ended up stuck inside. They had to sedate it and pull it out by tying a knot in its tail and hauling it out with a Bronco. “You crawl into a car with a live horse,” Causey recounted the harrowing experience. Quoting Mark Twain, he quipped, “The difference between tragedy and humor is who it happened to.” Causey has also had numerous adventures serving as a veterinarian overseas with the United States Air Force. “I was chief of veterinary services at Subic Bay Naval Complex in the Republic of the Philippines,” Causey explained. “At that time that was the only place outside of the U.S. that we were allowed to store nuclear weapons,” he added.
There were 110 military working dogs used for base security, as well as 60 recreational horses. The base also ran a vet clinic twice a week for pets. Causey said they treated a lot of dog bites from sailors visiting the local villages. Rampant rabies in the area meant the offending dogs had to be tracked down and monitored for the disease. Causey also recalled the day during a pet clinic when a sailor walked in toting a large, bulky paper bag. “I was just out of school and just knew enough veterinary medicine to pass the state boards,” Causey explained. The young man said that he had run over a snake, and it had a laceration. He was wondering if Causey could sew it up. “He gets this bag out from underneath the seat, and he’s got this eight-foot python. And sure enough, it’s got a six inch laceration,” Causey grinned at the memory. “I had never really worked on a snake. I thought, ‘Wow, what are we going to do?’” The problem was figuring out how to restrain the animal while he treated the cut. Causey thought fast because the snake, now free, was getting antsy. “I had a refrigerator,” suggested Causey. Hoping the cold would make the animal sluggish enough to work on, they wrestled it into the fridge. Ten minutes later they pulled out a duly calm snake. “I had the seaman on his head and a Filipino technician on the tail. I got cold water and we cleaned it up and disinfected it as best we could,” Causey recalled. The snake took about 15 stitches. Causey applied some antibiotic cream and then put the reptile out in the sun. When he started to get lively again, we put him back in the bag and away they went, the vet remarked. When his military service ended, Causey opened a small and large animal veterinary practice called Citrus Animal Clinic in Lake Placid in 1975. While he was born in Georgia during his father’s stint working for the railroad, Causey spent most of life in Florida and his father is originally from Wauchula. Causey also owns three cow/calf operations in Highlands, DeSoto and Hardee counties. Now that he has retired, Causey still stays busy in the local agriculture community by serving as chairman of the Heartland Agricultural Coalition, treasurer of the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Association, and chairman of the Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District. The Heartland Agricultural Coalition is an entity that brings together multiple stakeholders in the agriculture community for informational exchange and to operate as somewhat of a voice for the agriculture community on political issues that affect “the way we do business and our individual lifestyle,” explained Causey. Soil and Water is dedicated to environmental and water quality issues in the state of Florida. “It’s been a real education for me,” said the rancher, “learning different things about how one thing we do has such a ripple effect on so many other things that occur in the water quality issues and the environmental arena.” One of the most important projects regarding Florida’s water quality has been a program where ranchland is leased for water storage. This keeps phosphorus-rich water on agricultural lands from running off into Lake Okeechobee and also helps to retain water in the area. You have to remember that Florida used to be more wet than it is now, explained Causey. “Over the course of history we've basically been more concerned about flooding. Now that our climate has evolved that we don't get the rains that we used to, it’s more of a water conservation issue rather than a water elimination issue.” Causey also volunteers and travels with Homeless and Orphan Outreach, Inc., an all-volunteer, Christian non-profit organization that supports orphanages in the Dominican Republic. He said he has enjoyed raising his family in a community like Lake Placid. “It's been a good place to live,” he said.