UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team Rides to the Rescue

John Madigan, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, director of the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team, is a specialist in equine neonatology who has ventured beyond his field into the arena of disaster medicine and large animal rescue work. As a witness to the Northern California Yuba County floods in 1997, he found that many people wanted to rescue the stranded animals but were prevented by government officials from entering the disaster areas.

"The experience of being denied access to a flood zone, seeing the plight of the animals left behind, and treating and caring for the animal victims too long after the fact was a wake-up call to me as a veterinarian and a horse owner," Madigan said. The resulting anger and frustration he experienced were channeled into an effort that has led to significant improvement in animal welfare today.

One of the most important developments from this effort has been the creation of the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team, also known as VERT. Comprised of faculty veterinarians, staff, and students from the School of Veterinary Medicine, these volunteers are trained in animal rescue techniques and also receive training in the Standardized Emergency Management System, a statewide system that allows the integration of rescue services between various groups. VERT works in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Services, the American Red Cross, the California Veterinary Medical Association, and other local disaster relief organizations.

VERT is on call 24 hours a day. While activation of the team is at the discretion of the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services, the team is available for use by other counties through the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services. VERT specializes primarily in large-animal rescue but is prepared to rescue smaller animals should the need arise. An offshoot of VERT specializes in non-disaster large-animal rescues, often involving airlifts. Some previous rescues include a horse trapped in a ditch, a group of mules stranded in the Sierras, and an injured mule unable to move near Bishop.

At present, VERT has such limited resources that it is available primarily to the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services. However, it will consider all emergencies on an individual basis. To request assistance from the Large Animal Rescue Team, please call the UC Davis VMTH Large Animal Clinic at 530/752-0290. If calling between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. during the week or anytime on the weekend, follow the automated instructions for reaching the after-hours emergency phone number.

VERT is a volunteer organization made up of faculty, students and staff from the School of Veterinary Medicine. While it receives yearly support from the Center for Equine Health, it also needs the additional support of individuals and communities to defray costs associated with medical supplies and equipment. Contributions to VERT can be sent to the Center for Equine Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616. Checks should be made payable to UC Regents.

Information courtesy of The Horse Report, January 2007, and the UC Davis Center for Equine Health. For more information see www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh.
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