Louisiana Equine Disaster Preparedness

The Equine Branch of Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) has spent the past two years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita working on local, regional, and state emergency preparedness and response.

LSART is the operational arm of ESF-11 (emergency support function 11--all official emergency response having to do with animals in the state of Louisiana) and is under the jurisdiction of Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. More specifically, LSART has assisted Louisiana parishes with identifying resources for pre-storm/pre-emergency evacuation and sheltering, organized equine emergency response teams for post-storm veterinary medical assistance, search and rescue, post-storm evacuation, and sheltering.

Many LSART equine veterinarians have participated in community preparedness presentations, and they have authored several publications and resources for horse owners to assist them with making their own emergency family plans to include a plan for their horses. LSART has gathered emergency supplies for equine sheltering at three locations throughout the state and has identified teams of people to assist with future incidents requiring emergency response. There are equine shelters (pre-storm evacuation, post-storm, and response), search and rescue teams, and veterinary medical teams organized in every region of our state--all lead by Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) equine veterinarians.

With the support of the American Veterinary Medical Association Foundation, LSART held the first Louisiana SART Summit, bringing together more than 150 people representing government agencies, non-government organizations, equine-interest groups, producer groups, agriculture organizations, and independent volunteers to identify resources and gaps for our state with regard to animal emergency planning issues--including horses.

The Louisiana State University (LSU) Equine Health Studies Program (EHSP) Team has partnered with LSART to provide assistance with future events requiring: 1) equine shelter veterinary medical support, 2) equine field veterinary medical hospital support services, 3) equine search and rescue veterinary medical support team, and 4) a disaster response surge hospital (on site LSU- School for Veterinary Medicine campus).

In addition, the LSU-EHSP, LSART, and LSU- Fire & Rescue Training Institute are working together to hold a Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Training Course in October for Louisiana first responders, veterinarians, and animal care authorities (under the instruction of VMAT members Drs. Tomas and Rebecca Gimenez).

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine will be adding a course entitled “The Role of the Large Animal Veterinarian in Community Disaster Response” to the professional curriculum. The course will include National Incident Management System NIMS Incident Command System training, leadership training, as well as technical large animal rescue (i.e., responding safely to a livestock trailer vehicular accident), setting up a field medical hospital, and medical triage training. 

The LSU Ag Center has organized a Hay Hotline, directed by Dr. Jason Rountree, and has participated heavily with training of Ag Extension specialists in emergency planning.

The Louisiana Stockyard Association and several individuals are organized into evacuation and trailering teams. Louisiana Tech, located in Ruston, La., is an active partner with LSART team and recently obtained a grant to train and provide equine sheltering and response for local, regional, or state emergency needs. A technical large animal response training exercise is planned for the spring of 2008 for the LSU Student Chapter of the AAEP and the LA Tech Equine Studies team.

The LSART leadership team, under the direction of private practitioner Dr. Renee Poirrier, continues to provide leadership in working with state and federal officials. They have developed a 24/7 Website (www.LSART.org), initiated a public service announcement campaign (kick-off support of $5,000 each by the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association’s Dr. Walter J. Ernst Foundation and the LVMA Equine Committee Foundation), organized regional and parish leadership teams, and have authored both small animal and equine shelter manuals (becoming widely used by others across the nation). They have held numerous pet evacuation trainings especially in the New Orleans, Lafayette, and Lake Charles areas, all heavily affected from either Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita.

The state veterinarian’s office of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has updated and improved their horse tracking system, whereby a scanned RFID microchip number will immediately allow current owner identification complete with address and telephone contact information.

Most LSART equine volunteers and LSU-EHSP members have taken the important FEMA National Incident Management Training courses required for official state or regional credentialing. LSART and LSU-EHSP personnel recommend each horse owner make an emergency evacuation and response plans for the family (including all animals). File your family plan with your local Office of Emergency Preparedness. Visit www.LSART.org. Be Ready!

Rebecca S. McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVIM, is the Equine Branch Director of LSART, Associate Professor of Equine Medicine, Dept. of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University.

About the Author

Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM

Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, is a professor of Agricultural Sciences/Animal Science and veterinarian at Louisiana Tech University, Ruston. Her clinical interests include infectious diseases and biosecurity, equine and large animal internal medicine, disaster medicine, wellness/welfare, and integrative therapies. McConnico was the founding director of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Disaster Response and Training Program (2004-'17). McConnico is continuing this training program at her new post at Louisiana Tech University. She has coordinated trainings and presented at veterinary schools, local, state, national, and global conferences on disaster response, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between human and animal response. Conference presentations have included the World Association of Disaster and Emergency Medicine, National Alliance of State Animal and Agriculture Emergency Programs, America Association of Equine Practitioners, American Veterinary Medicine Assocaiton, National Disaster Medicine System, and others. McConnico believes that veterinarians play a vital role in building community risk reduction as it relates to all-hazards disaster response.

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