The Koi Health Advisor Program of the Associated Koi Clubs of America 2001-2003: A Novel Interactive Program for Improving Health/Husbandry of Privately Owned Koi and Providing Access to Qualified Veterinary Care
During 2001-2003, the Associated Koi Clubs of America (AKCA) sponsored a national educational Koi Heath Advisor (KHA) program to improve koi husbandry. Contributors to the program include numerous professionals and non-professionals with many years of experience in koi keeping and aquatic animal husbandry. Participants in the program are generally hobbyists who have koi ponds and enjoyed years of successful koi keeping, but are, by definition, hobbyists who have no commercial interests in koi. Information on pond design and filtration, water quality, koi nutrition and basic koi anatomy/physiology related to koi keeping is presented in an on-line format on the AKCA web site (http://www.akca.org/). Sandra Yosha, a private practice veterinarian with 15 years of experience in fish medicine/aquatic animal health, contributed to the health section of the course. The topics contained within the health section of the KHA program include recognition of koi health problems, tips on how to handle common koi husbandry emergencies, how to avoid common health problems related to husbandry of privately owned koi, and information on how to reach a qualified aquatic animal veterinarian for additional health needs for koi. The KHA program is ground breaking, providing up to date information about koi husbandry directly to the koi hobbyist, direct access to qualified veterinarians via a secured web bulletin board, and delineating husbandry advice and assistance from the practice of veterinary medicine. Each KHA, who meets the qualifications as set by the AKCA, is required to successfully complete several written examinations on various husbandry topics, participate in at least one interactive laboratory, and sign a document that they are advisors and have no commercial interests in koi. Furthermore, the activities of the KHA are specifically limited to those activities allowed by the laws governing each state in which the KHA is advising. These graduate KHA's are then expected to serve as a resource for other hobbyists in their koi clubs and the local area. To date 50 KHA's have graduated from the program, and currently 58 KHA's are in training.
The KHA program is the first of its kind, attempting to educate koi hobbyists about appropriate husbandry activities for non-veterinarians and, perhaps even more importantly, motivating private hobbyists to seek qualified veterinary care and advice for koi health problems. The KHA program also provides limited access to qualified veterinary care on a secured web site interactive bulletin board that is routinely monitored by Dr. Yosha and Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan. In addition to the initial program, there have been several regional interactive hands-on refresher laboratories where qualified non-professional hobbyists and veterinarians, including locally licensed private practice veterinarians, present husbandry techniques. The multifaceted KHA program is designed to motivate private koi hobbyists to improve husbandry of privately owned koi through education, better access to qualified veterinary care and qualified veterinarians, and guidance as to where husbandry ends and the practice of veterinary medicine begins. The KHA program has significant implications for the future activities and success of koi hobbyists, but has no direct impact on koi dealers, fish importers or other commercial fish operations or activities.