Veterinarians brace for hurricane response as Irene collides with East Coast

Veterinarians brace for hurricane response as Irene collides with East Coast

Aug 26, 2011
National Report – The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says it is working with a coalition of groups to mobilize veterinarians and other emergency resources to respond to Hurricane Irene's impending threat to New York City and other areas.

In fact, as the edges of the Category 2 hurricane touched North Carolina and chugged north on Friday, emergency officials in all the Northeastern states were planning a coordinated veterinary response following the 120 mph winds and anticipated flooding following the hurricane. Today, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning extending into New England for a storm that is estimated at threatening some 55 million people on the East Coast.

Veterinary Medical Assistance Team-3 (VMAT) leader Dr. Jim Hamilton tells DVM Newsmagazine that local, state and national veterinary response teams can be deployed to respond to impacted areas.

"We are looking at the edge of this hurricane over North Carolina," says Hamilton. "There have been a lot of discussions (about the veterinary response). Everyone is guessing where the needs will be," Hamilton tells DVM Newsmagazine.

Even though it's a waiting game for emergency responders, plans for possible deployment are being actively addressed to care for abandoned and injured animals following the storm. VMAT teams, coordinated through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), can be asked to move into disaster zones if state officials believe their services are needed. If a federal disaster is declared, the government can deploy the National Veterinary Response Teams that are coordinated through the Department of Health and Human Services.

On Friday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to close the city's subway systems and ordered an evacuation of certain sections of the most populated U.S. city. New York City animal welfare agencies, at the request of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), are mobilizing resources within the OEM's Animal Planning Task Force to aid in the emergency rescue and sheltering of animals in anticipation of the hurricane, ASPCA says.

AVMA is also in active discussions with states potentially impacted by the storm.

"AVMA is already in discussion with North Carolina on putting a VMAT in the field," Hamilton says. "My guess is there will be a group from VMAT deployed somewhere on the coast. Every eye is on tomorrow," Hamilton says.