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AVMA/AVMF strive to help pets after Sandy

Crews deployed to help save oiled wildlife, donations/grants in demand

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Nov. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is offering both aid and leadership, including trained volunteers who are helping rescue wildlife.

Approximately four AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) members have been sent to help clean oil off sea birds and other wildlife caught in an unfortunate oil spill in New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy.  The animals are being sent to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Delaware, where the VMAT members will work with other volunteers under the direction of Tri-State to help clean and rescue the wildlife.

In addition, the AVMA is leading the effort to help the U.S. government understand the scope of damages to veterinary facilities on the East Coast and has donated the help of a VMAT member in Washington D.C. to help in the planning and response. VMAT 2 Commander Dr. Patty Klein provided assistance at the National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. The Association is also coordinating distribution of donated veterinary medical supplies to clinics that have been impacted by the storm, and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) is now collecting grant applications from veterinarians in the storm zone to support emergency veterinary medical care for animals in the region.

"The storm has really been far more devastating than anyone could have anticipated, particularly along the shore.  The flooding was extensive, transportation issues unbearable and the loss of power has really been overwhelming," says Dr. Douglas Aspros, a veterinarian in Pound Ridge, NY, and president of the AVMA.

"Organizations like the AVMA and AVMF are uniquely qualified to understand the needs of veterinarians in an emergency.  We can't always provide everything that they might need, but we can provide help in a strategic and effective way.

"We're all family in veterinary medicine," Dr. Aspros continues.  "Individual veterinarians have offered assistance to their colleagues in the affected areas. This is not only helpful in delivering necessary aid, but it's also heartwarming."

Michael Cathey, executive director of the AVMF, says that the AVMF has started receiving applications for grants to assist veterinary clinics and facilities in the affected areas.  The AVMF expects to be collecting these applications to the AVMF Disaster Grant Program and distributing funds over the coming months.

"The AVMF sends along our concern and our continued support for those people and animals that were affected by and continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy. In partnership with our donors, we are very pleased to be able provide direct support to veterinarians on the front lines, who are providing medical care and other support to the animals affected by this disaster," says Cathey.  "As each request comes in for help, we also look for more donations to our programs to help keep funds available for veterinary clinics that will need our help to continue animal care."

Over the past seven years, the AVMA has been involved in efforts to develop ever-improving programs to evacuate and shelter families with pets and livestock, and these new programs have been effective in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

Seven years ago, during Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of pets and livestock were displaced. Many of those animals were housed in what is considered to be the largest ever emergency animal shelter. Over 10,000 lost or displaced animals were sheltered during its operation. 

During the ongoing cleanup after Sandy, animal shelter populations have been much smaller, which is a clear indication that more people were able to keep their pets and livestock safe during this storm. 

"Since Katrina, we've developed educational materials, such as video, to inform the general public and developed new partnerships involving other emergency-response organizations. As we've seen in this storm, our efforts have proven effective," explains Dr. Heather Case, director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division and an expert in veterinary-emergency-response programs.  "This isn't just about helping pets survive in an emergency, which is important, but it's also about protecting public health and safety in the wake of a natural disaster like Sandy. 

"In this response, not only did we learn that pet and livestock owners have really taken to heart the suggestions that they needed to include their animals in any evacuation plan, but the animal emergency response efforts have been far more organized and effective than they were during Katrina," Dr. Case continues. 

For more information about AVMA, visit www.avma.org.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association

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