Waters recede, but flood's impact remains - DVM
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Waters recede, but flood's impact remains
Midwest floods will have long-term effect on animal health and veterinarians

Volume 39, Issue 8

Calm after the storm

Across the Midwest, veterinarians, veterinary students, animal groups and volunteers reached out to make sure animals had food and shelter. And as the water ebbed, the veterinarians remained.

The Iowa Veterinary Rapid Response Team got to work opening a makeshift shelter at Kirkwood Community College after the local animal shelter in Cedar Rapids flooded and rising water knocked the building off its foundation.

With 20,000 homes evacuated, the response team knew it was in store for an influx of animals.

The facility opened in early June and by June 25 had processed more than 1,000 animals, mainly dogs and cats. Horses, foals, ferrets and pocket pets also were part of the population from time to time.

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine associate professors Dr. Christine Petersen and Dr. Claudia Baldwin logged several 12- and 14-hour days at the emergency shelter alongside four other faculty members, a dozen students, several veterinary technicians and the lead veterinarian at the facility, Dr. Randy Ackman of Cedar Rapids. Baldwin mainly coordinated efforts and solicited donations for the facility.

The primary focus was preventive care through examination and vaccination.

Because of the time of the year, fleas and heartworm were a major concern, as were respiratory infections, dry eye and other diseases typically associated with a shelter environment.

Health problems associated with the floodwater, such as diarrhea, worms and ear issues also had to be handled.

But the No. 1 challenge was just caring for the large number of animals. The facility ideally needed three veterinarians and six veterinary technicians to sign on for a consecutive stay, so each of the three buildings that made up the facility had its own veterinary team, Baldwin says.

The most pressing problem now is what to do with the animals that owners left behind.

"Certainly there are worries that people won't come back for their animals, but so far it looks like people are returning," Baldwin says. "We're hoping that continues."

Whether Cedar Rapids will be able to rebuild its permanent shelter is uncertain. Fewer animals were in need of sheltering in Iowa City — about 100 — but local practitioners and volunteers stepped up to help, including two third-year Iowa State veterinary students.

Des Moines also opened an emergency shelter, but due to the capacity of the existing shelter it wasn't necessary to open an off-site facility. The city took in about 45 animals.

Relief for veterinarians

Monique Buonincontro, AVMF grants coordinator, says veterinarians who assisted during the disaster or whose home or clinic was destroyed or who lost a significant amount of income can apply for a grant to help recoup some of those losses. Veterinarians have up to nine months after the disaster to apply.

By press time, Buonincontro had received only three applications — two animal-care reimbursement applications from veterinarians in Iowa, who rescued and sheltered dogs, and one from a veterinarian in Wisconsin Dells whose clinic was damaged.

Dr. Kenneth Kozlowski, of the Pine Knoll Veterinary Clinic in Wisconsin Dells, was awarded a $2,000 Veterinary Relief Grant.

The Waverly Veterinary Clinic in Waverly, Iowa, and the Vinton Veterinary Clinic in Vinton, Iowa, both were awaiting word on whether they would receive a grant.

Veterinarians in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri can apply for the $2,000 grant, which is for damages to a veterinary clinic or a veterinarian's home, and/or the $5,000 Animal Care Reimbursement Grant.

Whether veterinarians apply for the grants, it's obvious everyone has been working hard in the Midwest. "Life experiences are educational if you're aware of what's going on," says John Thomson, dean of Iowa's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It's real easy, if you don't feel it directly, not to learn from it. We're all going to learn from it."

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