The Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Veterinary Medicine has received a grant from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) for $20,000 in support of a State/Regional Disaster Management Training Program. The $20,000 from the AVMF is matched with in-kind gifts for a total value of $63,200. This program will provide emergency response training to aid animals before, during, and after disasters.

The in-kind gifts are provided by the LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute (FETI), the LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute (SDMI), the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association's Walter J. Ernst Jr. Foundation. Letters of support for the training program were required and received from state animal emergency management officials, including the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

The primary investigator in the research funded by the grant is Rebecca S. McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of veterinary medicine at the SVM; her co-investigators include Mustajab Mirza, DVM, MS, assistant professor of equine surgery; Wendy Wolfson, DVM, instructor of veterinary surgery; Renee Poirrier, DVM, adjunct assistant professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and director of LSART; Christine Navarre, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of veterinary science, LSUAgCenter; Neely Heidorn, PhD, equine extension specialist, LSU AgCenter; Corey Miller, coordinator, LSU Fire & Emergency Training Institute; and Ryan Still, coordinator, LSU Fire & Emergency Training Institute.

The LSU SVM's physical presence in a disaster prone region of the United States has enabled it to incorporate veterinary students, faculty veterinarians, and staff as first responders and to create experiential training for animal disaster response. Through solid partnerships with LSART, LSU FETI, LSU SDMI, and humane organizations, the LSU SVM has developed a disaster response program that includes animal emergency response planning, evacuation, sheltering, emergency triage, and technical rescue expertise. Specific debriefing sessions from each of the disaster response scenarios have enabled the emergence of a functional all-hazards disaster response plan and specialized responder training.

Over the past decade, this team has worked closely with local and regional resource providers to develop improved response activities to care for animals and the people who care for them during disasters, including Tropical Storm Allison (2001), Hurricanes Katrina & Rita (2005), Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (2008), the North Louisiana Flood (2009), and the Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil Spill (2010). These experiential learning opportunities by way of organized community engagement have provided rigorous training opportunities for veterinary students and veterinarians at LSU and the surrounding area. These recent response activities in which veterinary students and veterinarians were able to provide the work force and work first hand with certified emergency responders to provide training activities demonstrate a successful model for veterinary training providing robust training experiences and subsequent course development to address identified gaps in veterinary disaster response training.

"The AVMF grant and in-kind gifts will enable LSU to remain on the forefront of disaster management as it affects animals," said McConnico. "We will continue to train veterinary students, veterinarians, animal control officers, first responders, and other animal care personnel to work together to respond to the needs of animals before, during, and after disasters."

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