Mobile Veterinary Emergency Team Ready in Texas

Inspired by images from Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Rita, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in cooperation with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), has created a mobile Veterinary Emergency Team (VET).

Wesley Bissett, DVM, PhD, serves as lead faculty member on the project. "The unit has to be prepared to treat a wide variety of issues: hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires," he explained. Team members are divided into strike teams to target either large or small animals.

Drawing on lessons learned from other natural disasters, planners studied manuals from Louisiana State University and other sources. The VET team responders travel with two climate-controlled tents, a clinic trailer with limited surgical capability, lodging supplies, food, and generators. Thirteen team members are selected from A&M faculty, resident veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary students who have completed a disaster medicine elective course.

"If you look back, historically, at the college, we have been defined by service, certainly for the horse, and this project continues the legacy," Bissett said. Recalling 200 large animals transported to College Station during Hurricane Ike, Bissett outlined his three major charges for the operation. "First, we must keep the university hospital open to provide quality secondary care. Second, we must coordinate evacuation to the center. The VET unit meets our third objective: Go on-site for triage and emergency care."

As well as a service to animals in crisis, Bissett sees the unit as a service to students by providing emergency response training and skills they will take into their practices, benefiting equine and other animal owners in their animal care needs.

The VET unit will be capable of fluid therapy, wound suture, splinting, and humane euthanasia in worst case scenarios.

The first field exercise was held in College Station on April 23-25 and the team is now fully operational for response. This partnership between TAHC and Texas A&M epitomizes both organizations' goal: To protect the health of all livestock and companion animals.

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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