Hal Brown's first introduction to animal chiropractic was while he was still studying chiropractic therapy for humans. In one class, he watched a video that showed a cowboy in South Dakota adjusting horses.
At the time, Brown dismissed the concept as impossible - chiropractic for people was difficult enough, he said. Not to mention, practicing on animals was illegal in the U.S.
A show on canine physical therapy inspired Brown, though, and with encouragement from his wife he looked into animal chiropractic again. This time he found and joined a movement focused on passing a law that would allow specially trained chiropractors and veterinarians to adjust animals.
"We just made a huge push to the capitol," Brown said.
In 2008, the law passed. Brown signed up for the training program as soon as he found out. He attended The Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, Wis., one of only four schools in the U.S. that teaches veterinary spinal manipulative therapy.
One of the challenges he faces working with animals is simply a lack of verbal communication.
"They can't verbally tell us what's going on, so we have to watch more cues," Brown said.
Those cues can tell him whether an animal is relaxed, in pain or ready to strike at him.
Licensed animal chiropractors work with an animal's owners and veterinarian to look at the whole animal and find out what's wrong. The law even requires animal chiropractors to have a signed form from an animal's veterinarian before they can do any work on the animal.
Since he started practicing last year, Brown has already witnessed a number of success stories. He's adjusted two cats who were dragging a leg, and after just one adjustment they were using the leg almost normally.
He's also worked on horses that some considered impossible to work with. When he was done, the horses were completely different and able to be used.
"That's how powerful chiropractic can be," he said.
The animals tend to respond well to the therapy. Most are fairly calm through the process, but the experience can be startling to them, Brown said. Often, the work he does relaxes an animal so much it starts to fall asleep.
While chiropractic isn't a cure-all, it can help with a number of issues, and not all of them related to lameness. Behavioral and some internal problems can be affected by chiropractic as well. Some cases in which chiropractic could help include muscle spasms or weakness, surgery recovery, jaw or chewing problems, injuries, neurological problems and neck, back, leg or tail pain, among others.
Brown will have a booth set up at the Dakota County Fair, between the horse barn and arena. About 70 percent of his patients are horses, but he's also worked on dogs, cats and one cow.
He'll offer adjustments at the fair for discounted rates, provided animal owners have a signed release form from their veterinarian prior to receiving care, as required by state law. To get the form, contact Brown at 651-247-1769 or download it at www.animalchiropractic.tc. He will also do free evaluations at the fair, which do not require a veterinarian release form.