Veterinarian. Rotarian. Humanitarian. Welch Agnew, D.V.M., has dedicated his career to helping animals and his life to helping humans. Married 46 years to “the girl next door,” he is a dedicated father, grandfather, and golf aficionado. Dr. Agnew’s accomplishments are, in all honesty, too numerous to mention. He is an outstanding member of our community. His motto, like that of Rotary, is “Service above self.”
Born in Memphis, TN, he was like any other happy-go-lucky child in the U.S. By the time he was five, like many boys his age, Welch wanted to be a cowboy like his hero Roy Rogers. But unlike most five year old boys in the 1940s, Welch developed Polio, a highly contagious and easily transmitted viral infection. One day as Welch walked down the hallway of his home, he fell against the wall. Paralysis had set in. His parents took him to the hospital where he was admitted to an isolation ward with four other boys stricken by the same disease. He recalls being isolated for nearly a month. His parents would visit him but they had to remain outside in the courtyard; the only way Welch could see his parents was through the window. But due to his strength and determination, and the love of his family, he kept up his immune system and his body was able to fight off this virus within six months. By age six, Welch’s mother put him in tap dancing classes to aid the rehabilitation process. But it wasn’t long before Welch traded his dancing shoes for cleats; he gave up the stage for the baseball diamond where he excelled as a shortstop. To this day, there are no visible signs of him ever having Polio.
Welch attended West Point, launching a 29 year career in the Army. He attended Airborne and Ranger schools, served in the 82nd Airborne Division and following Flight School, did a tour in Vietnam as a pilot. After that, Welch attended graduate school, majoring in Spanish, and returned to West Point, but this time as a Spanish professor. By now, anyone would think this has been an amazing career, or rather, an amazing series of careers: Army pilot, officer, Spanish professor. But Welch was driven to do more. He needed to answer yet another calling. Welch resigned from the Army and enrolled in veterinary school at the University of Tennessee. After graduating, Dr. Agnew rejoined the Army as an Army Veterinary Corps officer. The Veterinary Corps is dedicated to public health and a significant number of Army veterinarians are involved in medical research and development, investigating diseases and researching vaccines, among other activities. Dr. Agnew worked as a public health officer overseeing food inspection and food plant operations, with some animal care mixed in.
After retiring from the Army, Dr. Agnew went to work at the Pinellas County Animal Services, first as Assistant Director, then Director. One of the major projects he faced was to control a serious rabies outbreak in the county. There were no known cases of rabies in the county for 40 years, but 39 cases were reported in 1995. Raccoons were the culprits and they infected domestic animals. Dr. Agnew helped to oversee an oral bait program modeled after one from the USDA. Helicopter and ground teams covered the county with baits the size of matchboxes. These vaccine-laced fishmeal polymer treats were ambrosia to raccoons. Eventually, the program controlled the rabies outbreak in Pinellas County. Another major accomplishment during his tenure at Animal Services was the implementation of the mobile clinic bus that brought basic veterinary care to low-income areas in the county.
Currently, Dr. Agnew dedicates part of his time to the PetLuv Spay/Neuter clinic in Brooksville. This operation keeps him involved with animals and off the golf course one day a week. But, he doesn’t stop there. Dr. Agnew continues to help humanity through the Rotary club and is the current President of the Rotary Club of Dunedin North, which supports many charities, including the global eradication of polio. Rotarians help the Dunedin Fine Arts Center by providing scholarships for summer camp programs. The club’s signature project is the Sing, Spell, Read & Write literacy program, which is an after school program for children in kindergarten and first grade that helps them develop reading skills through music. Dr. Agnew is organizing the Rotary Golf Tournament to be held October 5, 2012 at the Dunedin Golf Club, 1050 Palm Blvd., Dunedin. This is the major fundraiser of the year for the Rotary club. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. with a 1:00 p.m. Shotgun start. Players and sponsors are needed. This event benefits all the charitable work done by the Rotary club. For more information go to www.DunedinNorthRotary.org.