Welcome to NBCAAM's Debut Newsletter!
(Spring 2010)

The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM), a not-for-profit organization, was created for the purpose of establishing and upholding professional standards for animal acupressure and massage practitioners.


NBCAAM was founded by Amy Snow, Nancy Zidonis, and Tina Romine in the spring of 2008.  Amy and Nancy were communicating with the Colorado Veterinary Medical Board about political issues when they were questioned about the standards of the industry.  The Board asked if there was a qualification process for Animal Acupressure and Massage Practitioners, and Amy and Nancy decided there should be.  They contacted Tina Romine of Hocking College to see if Hocking would want to work with them to create a certification board, and they did!  With their vast knowledge and experience in animal massage, Lola Michelin and Theresa Gagnon were invited to be Founding Members. The result is NBCAAM and after 2 years, there has been real progress upholding the highest professional standards of practice for animal acupressure and massage. The founding members of NBCAAM developed a set of Core Competencies for each discipline. These Core Competencies reflect the knowledge required to perform animal acupressure or massage as a qualified professional in either one or both animal massage and acupressure disciplines. From this set of Core Competencies, standardized examinations were developed.


The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM) is very proud to announce that nine (9) people are now Nationally Certified Animal Massage or Acupressure Practitioners having successfully passed the required examinations. Each of the following people understand the significance of maintaining the Standards of Practice and Ethical Code set forth by NBCAAM to assure the health and well-being of animals and support the professionalism of their respective disciplines. Congratulations to them all for their dedication!  

Nationally Certified Animal Massage Practitioners:

 Marianne McClain, Equine & Canine Massage Practitioner, attended the Northwest School of Animal Massage and resides in Durango, CO.
Marianne has the distinction of being the very first Nationally Certified Equine Massage Therapist! When asked about her motivation in taking the exam, she replied: I am just starting my equine massage business in Durango, Colorado and I knew that passing the exam would add to my credentials.  I think there are a lot of people out there who call themselves equine massage therapists that have very little training.  I wanted to differentiate myself from them and make a statement that I was serious about what I am doing. “  Marianne felt that the NBCAAM examination was hard enough to weed out people who didn't have a good understanding of equine anatomy and massage, but not so hard that it was difficult to pass.”  Ms. McClain further commented:It is a great way to add to your professionalism and credibility as an equine practitioner. More people need to realize how wonderful it is to have a national certification process.  I am really thankful to everyone who put forth the effort to put the exam in place as I am sure it wasn't easy to do.

 Jennifer Wheeler, Equine Massage Practitioner,
Hocking College Equine Complementary Therapies Program and resides in Pittsburgh, PA.
Jenn said, "I became NBCAAM certified because I wanted to be the best... to give the best to these animals. After falling in love with equine and animal health (massage, specifically) the choice to take the exam was kind of a no-brainer. We know our doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals are capable of doing their job because they have the credentials to show for it. I wanted that, and to date, NBCAAM is the best in the business."

 Kimberly Hellems, Canine Massage Practitioner,
Blue Ridge Animal Massage attended Northwest School of Animal Massage and resides in Crozet, VA.
Kim said she took the exam because, "As a Licensed Veterinary Technician, I know how important a national standard can be in a profession. I want my clients to feel safe and comfortable bringing their beloved pets to me for massage which is why I support NBCAAM. They are bringing a high standard to animal acupressure and massage by offering their certification exams- exactly what this profession needs. I think it gives clients a certain amount of assurance that they are choosing a practitioner who is educated and has proven it by passing NBCAAM's exams. It can be difficult to be taken seriously sometimes when you tell people what you do for a living, so it helps to have these credentials to show that animal massage therapy is a serious profession."  

Denise Theobald, Canine Massage Practitioner, of Deeply Kneaded Therapeutic Massage attended Chicago School of Massage Therapy and resides in Chicago, IL.

Nationally Certified Animal Acupressure Practitioners:

Anita Read, Equine & Canine Acupressure Practitioner, attended Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and resides in Fort Worth, TX. 
Anita was the first Nationally Certified Canine Acupressure Practitioner!  She is also the first Nationally Certified Practitioner in BOTH Canine AND Equine Acupressure!  When asked her intention in sitting for the Canine and Equine Acupressure NBCAAM examinations, Anita stated: "Beginning a new career in this field, it’s important to me to meet the highest professional standards available in order to give me credibility as I work alongside veterinarians to provide our animals the best that is available in Western and Eastern care. I want to support the National Board in their mission to strengthen Animal Acupressure as a career field. I believe being a Nationally Certified Canine Acupressure Practitioner gives me credibility as an Animal Acupressure Practitioner."

 Karen Shaw, Equine Acupressure Practitioner, of
West on the Wheel Acupressure, attended Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and resides in Marshall, CA.

 Leann "Lu" Garnas, Equine Acupressure Practitioner, of
Garnas Equine Therapeutic Services attended Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and resides in Belgrade, MT.
When asked why she sat for the NBCAAM examination, Lu said: I took the NBCAAM exam because I believe it is important that we, as practitioners and educators, self-regulate in order to keep the level of professionalism high. If we can establish this sort of self-governance in education and training, standards of practice, and code of ethics, our future of working with veterinarians as legitimate adjunctive therapies is increased. Without this sort of self-monitoring, our legitimacy is undermined and potentially over-ruled by those that do not understand or appreciate the benefits of these modalities."

 Kathi Soukup, Equine Acupressure Practitioner, of
KS Equine Massage and Bodywork attended Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and resides in Freeport, IL. 

 Casie Bazay, Equine Acupressure Practitioner, attended
Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and resides in Porter, OK.
Casie said, "As an educator for the past ten years, I understand the importance of having standardized examinations to show that an applicant has met the required standards in a specific area. I challenged myself to pass the NBCAAM, and it was not an easy feat! I am very excited and honored to be among the first few equine acupressure practitioners to have earned this certification, though. I feel that having attained this certification, my credibility as an equine acupressure practitioner will be greatly enhanced. I have not yet started my acupressure practice, but plan to this coming summer after the birth of my second child. I look forward to continuing my education in equine acupressure (for there is always more to learn) and pursuing my passion of helping horses. 

Click here for more information on NBCAAM Members 

Meet the Board!


Amy Snow
Tallgrass Acupressure Institute

Theresa Gagnon

Bancroft School of Massage Therapy
Worcester, MA


Tina Romine
Hocking College
Nelsonville, OH 

Larry Coon
Dean of
Hocking College
Nelsonville, OH


Susan King
Companion Chi
Cary, NC


Sharon Romines
Sacred Breath Massage
Duvall, WA

Members at Large

Nancy Zidonis
Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute
Larkspur, CO

Lola Michelin
Northwest School of Animal Massage
Fall City, WA

Lisa Burke
Clayton College of Natural Health
Birmingham, AL

Jean Pierre Hourdebaigt
Massage Awareness
Wellington, FL

Mike Scott
Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy
Camden, SC

Jonathan Rudinger
PetMassage and IAAMB
Toledo, OH

Bill Harnetty, DVM
Hocking College
Nelsonville, OH

Dr. Pedro Luis Rivera
Michelle Rivera

Healing Oasis Wellness Center

Sturtevant, WI 

  NBCAAM welcomes our newest member to the board, Lisa Burke, ND, CTN, NMT, NCTMB. Lisa is assistant professor of traditional naturopathy, practitioner education coordinator, and the companion animal studies coordinator for Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH). Lisa is a certified traditional naturopath and neuromuscular therapist. She has a BS in natural health and an ND degree from Clayton College of Natural Health. With more than 15 years experience in the natural health profession, Lisa complements her academic support with published articles on practitioner education and sustainability. Additionally, Lisa is the advisor on educational standards for the American Naturopathic Certification Board (ANCB). With a strong background in massage, naturopathy, practitioner education and supervision, as well as academic institutions and coordination of continuing education programs, Lisa brings a wealth of experience to NBCAAM's team.  Lisa states, "Now more than ever the general public is seeking alternative modalities to assist with the care of their companion animals. The integration of alternative modalities, such as acupressure and massage, into mainstream practice serves as a support in the process for maintaining health in our furry friends. Therefore, achieving the certification requirements set forth by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM) confirms the practitioner’s higher level of professional commitment. It is my honor to be a member of the NBCAAM board and to assist its members on the Continuing Education Committee. Working together in a cohesive manner, the committee will ensure the highest quality of continuing education courses are offered to its NBCAAM members." 

Thank you for your interest in NBCAAM.


It is with great pleasure and honor that NBCAAM awards its first honorary membership to Linda Tellington-Jones! 
Click here for more information
Click here for Linda's website

Founding Board Members of NBCAAM, Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis, gave 4 presentations at the recent Equine Affaire in Columbus, OH.  Their topics were Cushing's, Moody Mares, Tying up, & Aging Issues (click on links for handouts from presentations).

Amy and Nancy wrote an informative article featured in the latest issue of Holistic Horse Magazine on Immune Support for Allergies in the horse.  It can be viewed online here.

We are all keeping an eye on two identical bills moving through the Illinois legislature,
HB5377 and SB3712.  SB3712 was voted through the Illinois Senate and into the House. HB5377 is now scheduled for the third read. These bills were introduced by The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and contain an amendment to the state's Veterinary Medicine & Surgery Practice Act . This comprehensive amendment would have undone an agreement made in 2004 that allows an animal owner the right to choose complementary practitioners for their animals' health care needs without a veterinary referral.  The ISVMA wanted to take out exemptions 8 & 15 that allow owners the right to choose, but they have been returned to the bills, so The Illinois Alliance for Animal Owners Rights, Inc. (IAAOR) supports the bills now.  IAAOR needs all of our support to help keep freedom of choice for animal care in Illinois!
Washington State 
After an extended legislative session, Washington State has finally passed a budget bill that included language granting fee authority to the Department of Health's animal massage licensure program. It has been three years since Washington voted to recognize animal massage practitioners with 300 hours of training through a voluntary licensing program administered by the Department of Health. Prior to 2007, only licensed massage practitioners or licensed veterinary technicians with an additional 100 hours of training in animal massage were legally able to practice animal massage in Washington State. However, since the passage of the 2007 bill, budgetary and fee issues have prevented the program from being implemented. Today, Washington residents interested in practicing animal massage are sighing in relief. The expectation is that the Department of Health will be able to implement the program, which will include an application fee and state examination, in the upcoming months. It is not known yet if they will also create a continuing education requirement.
Lola Michelin 

California Rabies Vaccine Medical Exemption AB 2000

California Assembly Member Curt Hagman has filed Assembly  Bill 2000 that will insert a Medical Exemption Clause into California's Rabies Law.  From the bill: "This bill would exempt from the vaccination requirement the owner of a dog that a licensed veterinarian determines, on an annual basis, may have a potentially lethal reaction to the vaccination."  The bill has gone to the Agriculture Committee.

click here for Dr. Jeannie Thomason's Whole Dog News blog with phone numbers and emails of committee members if you'd like to take action and recommend passage of this bill.  Feline guardians can request that cats be included as well.

A similar bill in Virginia recently passed the House and Senate and has gone to the Governor for Signature.

CA Rabies Bill AB 2689

California Assembly Member Cameron Smyth, Chair of the Local Government Committee, introduced this bill that has been referred to the Local Government Committee and will require annual rabies vaccinations and puppies to be vaccinated at 3 months of age in "rabies areas" as determined by the State Public Health Officer. A violation would result in impoundment.

Public response has caused Assembly Member Smyth's office to withdraw the language in AB 2689 lowering the age of puppy vaccination from 4 months to 3 months in "rabies areas." However, as the law currently stands, the State Public Health Officer can require annual rabies vaccinations in "rabies areas."

Click here for contact information to voice your opposition.

The goal of The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust is to extend the legally required interval for rabies boosters to 5 and then 7 years by financing the concurrent 5 and 7 year rabies challenge studies currently beginning their third year at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and being conducted according to the USDA's vaccine licensing code, Title 9 Section 113.209 by Dr. Ronald Schultz.

Research has demonstrated that overvaccination can cause harmful adverse effects in dogs. Immunologically, the rabies vaccine is the most potent of the veterinary vaccines and associated with significant adverse reactions such as polyneuropathy resulting in muscular atrophy, inhibition or interruption of neuronal control of tissue and organ function, incoordination, and weakness, auto-immune hemolytic anemia, autoimmune diseases affecting the thyroid, joints, blood, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and central nervous system; anaphylactic shock; aggression; seizures; epilepsy; and fibrosarcomas at injection sites are all linked to the rabies vaccine. It is medically unsound for this vaccine to be given more often than is necessary to maintain immunity, yet scientific research strongly indicates that the 3 year booster interval required by state laws may be unnecessary. French challenge study results published in 1992 showed that dogs were immune to rabies 5 years after vaccination and Dr. Ronald Schultz's serological studies proved that dogs have antibody titer counts at levels known to confer immunity to rabies 7 years after vaccination.

Click here to go to the Rabies Challenge Fund website.

The Beginning of the End of Puppy Mills

Three California cities have recently taken the bold step of passing ordinances banning the sale of cats and dogs (excluding shelter/rescue animal adoptions) in pet stores.  On March 23rd, Hermosa Beach Councilmember Jeff Duclos' proposed ordinance passed. Duclos was inspired by the city of West Hollywood's decision to legislate their strong position against puppy mills on February 1st.  West Hollywood Councilmember Jeffrey Prang brought the ordinance to the council when Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) showed evidence from their investigation of a puppy mill that supplied one West Hollywood pet store.  South Lake Tahoe was the first city to regulate cat and dog sales in 2009 in response to numerous citizen complaints about sick puppies being sold in a new puppy store.

There have been a string of pet stores in Los Angeles and other cities that have "gone humane" amid frequent protests outside their store.  The new trend of only offering adoptable animals from a shelter or rescue group has helped former puppy mill clients improve their image after taking a beating in the media and the public eye.

Related Article at Los Angeles Times "Unleashed" 


Study Finds Raw Diet a Viable Option for Dogs

Nature’s Variety, a Lincoln, Neb.-based manufacturer of pet food, funded a study to provide veterinarians with science-based research on raw diets and their effects on dogs' health. The research was led by Kelly Swanson, Ph.D., associate professor with the department of animal sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  As part of the research, Swanson’s team fed six healthy young adult beagles variations of beef- and chicken-based raw diets over a four-and-a-half-month period. The diets were comprised of about 90 percent muscle meat, organ meat and ground bone, and about 5 percent a fruit and vegetable mix.  The findings were that the raw diets fed were highly digestible, produced desirable stool quality, volume and odor, and resulted in normal blood chemistry.  The dogs in the study also maintained their weight and the quality of their skin and coat, according to Swanson.  Laura Duclos, Ph.D., director of research and development at Nature’s Variety, said she expects the study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in about one year. She said Nature’s Variety will likely use the information to re-evaluate its raw diet formulas.

The full article at Pet Product News is here.

New Regulations and Lawsuits Bite Flea and Tick Products

Several lawsuits have been filed over the past few months against companies that make flea and tick products. The EPA just announced that they will immediately start evaluating labels to see which need stronger warnings, and they plan to develop improved testing requirements for both new and existing products. Animals affected by these pesticides typically show neurological side effects, such as staggering,vomiting, and disorientation. Despite the tens of thousands of reports of animals becoming sick or dying after application of the products, the manufacturers stick to the company line that the number of adverse reactions is very low and caused by pre-existing or underlying conditions. Websites like Hartz Kills, Hartz Victims, and B
io Spot Victims give owners whose pets died within hours or days of applying flea and tick treatment a place to tell their stories, as well as provide information on the potential dangers of these products.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's Green Paws campaign draws attention to the dangers of pesticides in pet products, particularly flea collars, which are not covered by the EPA's new regulations.
Your best bet for safe flea control is prevention. Regular baths, using a flea comb, and maintaining your yard can go a long way.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the number of reports of adverse reactions to flea and tick treatments has been increasing dramatically in recent years. But the pressure is mounting to protect pets and families from these pesticides. Just last month, a jury in Texas ruled in favor of a man who had lost his Olde English Bulldog to a Hartz product. Between sympathetic juries and new EPA regulations, we can only hope this is a turning point for reducing pet exposure to toxic chemicals.
See full article here.

You don't have to take the exam to be a NBCAAM Member!

Types of NBCAAM Memberships

  • Certified Practitioner Level
  • Individual Supporting Member
  • Business Supporting Member
  • Student Member
  • Massage/Acupressure School

Have you checked out the thorough Study Guides available for reference at the NBCAAM Website?
Helpful Study Guides for all 4 exams are here.  

Click here to see NBCAAM's Active Committees and Committee Members.

If you are an animal bodyworker that would like to help NBCAAM continue its success, please email volunteer@nbcaam.org to learn about volunteer opportunities, or to volunteer for an NBCAAM committee.

Member Schools


© Debra Jo Chiapuzio (Emma's mom)

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The information, opinions, and recommendations presented within the NBCAAM newsletter are for general information only. Such information should not be considered veterinary or medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified veterinarian or physician.
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