AVMA/AVMF And The American Red Cross Join Forces;

Separation or injuries to beloved family pets oftentimes compounds the devastation people suffer during disasters.

A "Statement of Understanding" signed this afternoon at American Red Cross Headquarters by Mrs. Elizabeth Dole, President of the American National Red Cross; and Dr. John I. Freeman, President of the Schaumburg-based American Veterinary Medical Association, and Dr. Samuel E. Strahm, Chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, outlines future cooperation between the organizations.

"When disasters occur, people's lives are severely disrupted and keeping people connected to their family pets during these disasters is an important first step on the road to recovery," said AVMA President, Dr. John I. Freeman.

"Veterinary skills and expertise will be available during times of disaster to care for injured animals, help keep families and their companion animals connected, and to assure that human health is protected from contagious diseases. This statement of understanding outlines the cooperative activities of each group so that separation of people and their pets can be averted," Dr. Freeman said.

"During times of disaster, the basic needs of food, shelter, and medical care are essential to assure the health and welfare of our companion animals. Disasters often result in pets running loose, risking not only injury to themselves but also posing a threat to public health," Dr. Freeman said.

"In addition, we have all seen images of people clinging to their pets perched on top of flood destroyed homes. Because of the strength of the human-animal-bond, owners often risk their own lives during disasters to assure the safety of their pets," Dr. Freeman added.

"In the wake of disasters, animals are often left stranded, injured, and dehydrated," said AVMF chairman, Dr. Samuel E. Strahm. "Relief agencies move swiftly to assist people, but often lack the resources to provide treatment for affected animals. Animal welfare organizations have disaster response programs to rescue and shelter animals but these programs do not provide veterinary medical treatment. We respond to this need through the provision and support of veterinary medical assistance teams and funding for the treatment of animals hurt or endangered by disasters," added Dr. Strahm.

Mrs. Dole believes this new relationship with AVMA and AVMF adds important participants to the overall disaster response.

"The bond people share with pets is special and unique," Mrs. Dole said. "Pet owners are deeply concerned when their pets' welfare is threatened. By ensuring the care and safety of animals in times of disaster, the veterinary associations help us ensure the mental and physical well-being of people," Mrs. Dole added.

"This agreement allows the Red Cross to refer questions regarding animal welfare to the experts in veterinary care, to ensure that the health care, sheltering, and feeding of animals in times of disaster is made available and is of the highest quality possible," explained Mrs. Dole.

Donations to disaster relief efforts may be made to the American Red Cross at 800-HELP-NOW or the AVMA/AVMF, 800-248-2862, extension 600.

—American Veterinary Medical Association

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