AVMA, AVMF, Red Cross agreement aids animal rescue efforts

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Mar 25, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Schaumburg, Ill. -- To better coordinate animal-rescue efforts during times of disaster, a decade-old "statement of understanding" between the AVMA, AVMF and the American Red Cross has been formalized.

The new Memorandum of Understanding, which lays the groundwork for increased cooperation between the national organizations, replaces the original agreement, penned in 1998.

"I am eager to see how we can collectively address challenges in disaster preparedness and response as we look to prepare families for the unexpected," says Dr. Heather Case, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) coordinator for emergency preparedness and response. "This new MOU is a call to action for both groups and will allow us to develop new programs on the local level to meet the challenges."

It is estimated that 100,000 animals, pets and livestock are separated from their owners and/or lost during a major natural disaster. Many times pet owners are forced to leave their pets behind during a disaster because they haven't prepared for evacuation. Sometimes pet owners are prepared but local or state disaster plans have not been written to accommodate for the evacuation of animals.

One of the goals of the Memorandum Of Understanding is to reverse this trend. Already, the Chicago chapters of the Red Cross and the AVMA have been meeting to address a problem following house fires: temporary housing for pets. The Red Cross provides temporary housing for the victim's of fires but not pets. "Many people choose to sleep in their cars simply because they can't find a home for their pets," Case explains.

A new program being developed by the two groups in Chicago would create a network of local veterinarians that would house the animal victims of a house fire. Once this program is developed in Chicago, it's hoped that it will be duplicated across the country, officials say.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) is the charitable branch of the AVMA that funds disaster response and emergency preparedness training and accepts charitable contributions on behalf of those efforts. The AVMF will help fund programs developed under this cooperative arrangement through AVMF grants. The AVMA will serve as a technical adviser to the Red Cross on all animal and veterinary related aspects of disaster-response efforts.