Local chiropractor offers cross-species care

DeKALB – You could say Dr. Bonnie Harder has two jobs rolled into one.

During the first half of the week, she performs chiropractic services on humans at Aspen Chiropractic, 6450-C Peace Road, DeKalb. During the second half, she performs the same services for animals – generally horses, dogs and cats – in private homes and on farms.

“Given the day, it depends which is easier to deal with,” she said with a laugh.

“The technique is much different with animals than people because there’s a difference in bone and muscle structure, but each species has a little variation.”

Harder said horses can be the most challenging species to work on because they’re bigger and they move a lot more. Nonetheless, she said she prefers her animal patients to humans.

“I really enjoy adjusting animals the most,” she said. “They know I’m trying to help them and they will kind of move their necks around to help me. ...People don’t always act as well as animals.”

Dr. John Chatellier, owner of Aspen, said the clinic isn’t set up to handle animals on site. There is also concern that bringing animals into the office could aggravate allergies of human clients of Aspen or the massage therapy business that shares its space.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science with an emphasis in equines, Harder was working as a horse specialist in Wisconsin when she became interested in chiropractic care for horses and for humans. She returned to college and graduated with a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

According to the American Animal Adjusting Society, anyone can adjust their own animal as long as they “do it in a safe and humane fashion.” Only those with special state-issued licenses can adjust animals belonging to others. A chiropractor must acquire more than 200 hours of additional training to work on animals, Harder said.

A recent change in the law, intended to protect animals from unintentional injury, means Harder can only take animal clients on a veterinarian’s referral.

“The practice of chiropractic, as well as the practice of veterinary medicine, is governed by the state practice acts of the respective health professions within each state,” said Tom McPheron, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Thus, the state practice acts will differ among states, and what may be legal in one state may not be legal in another.”

Although he didn’t study animal chiropractic himself, Chatellier said his college roommate did.

“It’s wonderful that there are people that care enough about animals that give them the same treatment and relief that we have,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they want to take care of them the same?”

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