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Through the Fire and the Flood: The VET Serves Texas Communities by Callie Rainosek

VET leadership in operational planning session. Early June 2016 brought devastating floods and tornadoes to southeast Texas. In emergency situations such as these, it is important to have safe and efficient evacuation plans prepared for our communities, including our family pets and livestock. Just like people, animals need care and shelter when a disaster strikes, and the Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is there to provide such care. “We are Aggies,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett, the executive director of the VET. “Aggies do special things in tough times, they stand up and serve.” The VET was a dream brought to life in response to Hurricane Ike in 2008. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Bissett noticed that the care of animals in disasters was practically nonexistent. Many disaster victims were not willing to evacuate because they couldn’t take their pets with them. They often stayed in place to protect their pets, putting their own lives at risk. In 2006, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed at the federal level and required communities to have a plan for the evacuation of people with their animals during emergencies. The passage of PETS motivated Bissett to begin forming a veterinary emergency response team in 2008 at the CVM. The VET was fully established in 2009. Since proving their effectiveness in the 2011 wildfire disaster in Bastrop, the VET has expanded to over 30 dedicated veterinarians, veterinary technicians, volunteers, and Texas A&M faculty, students, and staff. In addition, the VET also allows veterinary students a unique opportunity for field experience and is a required rotation in veterinary school at Texas A&M, something unique to the CVM. “The bulk of the team is primarily faculty and staff that volunteer their time to be there,” said Angela Clendenin, public information officer for the VET. “However, students participate in a two-week rotation called Community Connections, which is taught by the faculty members on the VET. When there’s a disaster, we are able to take students 78 •

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that happen to be on the Community Connections rotation if they are able to go. Some of them have obligations that preclude them from going, and it’s not mandatory that they deploy with us, but they are encouraged to go and share in that experience.” The program is unique because students’ experience with disaster relief goes beyond theoretical knowledge. Instead, they learn first-hand about animal issues in disasters. When there’s not a disaster, the students work with faculty, local governments, and communities around the state of Texas to develop evacuation, sheltering, and medical operations plans for animals impacted by disasters. Working out of several trailers and tents when on duty, the team has worked hard to secure equipment to serve their needs since its formation. It can be hard to anticipate the condition of animals when a disaster strikes; therefore, the team has developed special equipment, including a decontamination unit, to aid in the recovery of wounded or sick animals. In June 2016, special equipment, like the decontamination unit, played a key role in treating animals affected by the flooding in Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties in southeast

Erin Wilkens decontaminating flood victims.

CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...

CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...