New mobile vet unit ready to save animals in US disaster zones

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team's new medical unit.
Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team’s new medical unit.

Animals coping with disasters in the US have a new ally in a fully equipped custom veterinary truck that has been unveiled in Texas.

The 25-foot truck was fully funded by a grant from the Banfield Foundation, which funds programs that enable veterinary care, and will expand the Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Emergency Team’s (VET) medical-response capability in times of disaster.

Custom designed by the Texas A&M VET team based on its needs and insights from earlier deployments, the new unit features a durable metal exterior, generator and climate-controlled tents. It is also equipped with a veterinary-grade wet table, gas anesthesia and storage for enough medical and pharmaceutical inventory to last up to 48 hours of disaster response operations. The new unit will enable Texas A&M’s VET to treat and stabilize injured pets and large animals such as horses and cattle, and perform emergency surgeries.

Inside the new VET medical unit.
Inside the new Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team “VET” medical unit.

When not deployed during a disaster, the veterinary medical unit will be based at Texas A&M’s Disaster City, where veterinary students and Texas Task Force, a FEMA urban search-and-rescue unit, will use it in bimonthly exercises to train for emergency situations. Fourth-year veterinary students will also spend two weeks of clinical rotation with the medical unit.

As the largest and most deployed veterinary emergency response unit in the country, Texas A&M’s VET is a leader in emergency preparedness education. The fully equipped veterinary medical unit — the latest addition to the team’s fleet of response vehicles — will enable even more expansive and efficient rescue and treatment of pets during disasters.

“As we again experienced with the most recent tragedies across the US, people and their pets face emergent rescue and recovery needs during and after disasters. The new veterinary medical unit will bolster veterinary care and capabilities during those critical times,” said Dr. George Melillo, Banfield Foundation board member and vice-president of Veterinary Quality at Banfield Pet Hospital.

“We have witnessed the compassion and effective care capabilities from Texas A&M’s VET, and we are honored to have a part in helping the team minimize the devastating consequences of disasters and be even more prepared to care for animals in urgent need.”

The fully equipped veterinary medical unit will enable even more expansive and efficient rescue and treatment of pets during disasters.
The fully equipped veterinary medical unit will enable even more expansive and efficient rescue and treatment of pets during disasters.

Dr Wesley Bissett, founder and director of Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Emergency Team, said historically, animals were ignored during disasters.

“In their own right, they deserve our help. As the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical emergency response team in the country, this addition keeps Texas A&M and our College of Veterinary Medicine at the forefront of disaster response – in today’s age, it takes this sort of partnership to pull these things off,” Bissett said.

Banfield Foundation first announced plans for Texas A&M’s VET truck in February 2017 as part of its Disaster Relief Grant program, which is available to nonprofit animal organizations and local or state governments whose communities suffer the impact of disasters. The program has already funded nearly $725,000 since its inception in 2015, including resources for pets and people impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

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