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Addressing the Needs of Pets During an Emergency

Jun 21, 2021 | Beth Hess

Since more than half of U.S. households own at least one pet, Health Departments and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units can expect that animals will be a consideration for the majority of local families during an emergency response. This Pet Preparedness Month, we are highlighting three veterinary MRC units who received Operational Readiness Awards this year. For pet preparedness tips and resources, click here.

Mississippi Veterinary MRC

Almost 500 people are part of the Mississippi Animal Response Team (MART). The Mississippi Veterinary MRC is comprised of the elite members within the MART—those who are trained and want to deploy. The unit consists of about 50 volunteers including veterinarians and non-medical volunteers with sheltering experience.

The unit has three primary teams. The Shelter Team deploys to assist with large-scale sheltering events like those that have happened after hurricanes. The Veterinary Medical Response Team, comprised of veterinarians and vet techs respond to disaster situations like the Mississippi River flood, tornados, and hurricanes. Missions have also included support to the dogs assisting with security at the National Governors Association meeting and to cadaver dogs assisting with a military chopper crash. In 2019 the Animal Assistance Crisis Response Team was formed. This six-member team includes people and therapy dogs. During COVID-19 the team was deployed for several months to conduct visits to the State Department of Health and the State Emergency Operations Center to help reduce stress among responders.

“It was amazing to see people’s response,” said Unit Leader Beth Adcock. “It provided a break from everyday stress.”

UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team MRC

The University of California, Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) MRC includes veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and a little over 200 deployable veterinary students. The team provides support to areas within 120-150 miles of UC Davis.

VERT MRC assists with search and rescue, going into the field with an animal control officer to triage and stabilize animals including cats, dogs, equine, some livestock, avians, and exotics. Their avian and exotics strike team provides an initial assessment and arranges for transport as needed. VERT MRC also provides support to large and small animal shelters, providing consultations when animals arrive and assisting to make arrangements for them.

While the unit has assisted with smaller incidents, requests for their support are mostly to support larger scale disasters like fires, floods, and landslides.

The unit is very adaptable as it works to get animals out of danger, stabilize them, and help to get them to their final destination.

LSART Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps

The Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) MRC focuses on providing training to parishes throughout Louisiana so that local staff can help themselves and other parishes in the event of an emergency effecting pets. Training includes pet evacuation and sheltering, jurisdictional assessments, technical large animal, flood water and radiological decontamination, and slack (slow water) training. They also host a week-long training for veterinary students interested in disaster response.

The unit provides veterinary services at parish pick up points, including helping people sign in to a shelter and ensuring they have what is needed to care for their own pet.

During last year’s Hurricane Laura they worked alongside local animal control to provide local needs assessments as well as resources to people on caring for their own pets. Because of COVID-19, evacuees were cohabitated with their pets in hotels instead of housed in shelters. LSART sent veterinary teams to various locations to check on the health of pets.

In addition to veterinarians, vet techs, and vet students, the unit includes laypersons who assist with such duties as documentation, technical large animal, slack water rescue, and assessments.


About Beth Hess

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