AVMA disaster relief gets shot of funding


Schaumburg, Ill.-The American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) disaster relief efforts just received a major shot of funding.

Schaumburg, Ill.-The American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) disaster relief efforts just received a major shot of funding.

When tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma in 1999, search and rescue dogs were called to recover missingvictims.

In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) doled out $278,629 for disaster relief and another $80,000 for other disaster initiatives.

While officials say it is big money, it also serves a vital need.

"Given the overwhelming response following the events of September 11, the AVMF felt it imperative to ensure contributions were committed to those areas most in need," says AVMF Executive Director Paul Amundsen. "It's a privilege and an honor to support the AVMA's animal disaster relief efforts such as those used at the World Trade Center."

Dr. Cindy Lovern, AVMA's assistant director of emergency preparedness and response, tells DVM Newsmagazine, "Throughout the course of the last 18 months, the recognition of the Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs) and their importance at all levels of animal health and public health is increasing. The funding will be used to help them get adequately trained, prepared and equipped to go into any type of disaster situation."

Floods are another disaster becoming all too common. New funding by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation will help with efforts to rescue pets.

And it is not all a result of the tragedy of Sept. 11. Disasters strike whether hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. Veterinarians need to be prepared and so do the VMATs to assist during emergencies.

Lovern says that VMATs are deployed more frequently under the United States Public Health Service for national events like the presidential inauguration, Olympics and in preparation to treat secret service dogs, or search and rescue dogs in the event of a disaster.

Follow the money

The areas receiving the awards include:

  • VMATs for the purchase of needed supplies, to conduct team trainings and to expand existing capabilities.

  • Planning and related training exercises to ensure VMAT readiness.

  • Development and distribution of educational materials targeting veterinary professionals and the public.

AVMF is a $4.5 million 501(c)(3) organization created to advance the care and value of animals in society by raising and distributing funds in support of animal studies, education and human-animal bond.

AVMF has been funding AVMA's disaster relief program since its inception in 1997, but this latest announcement ranks as the largest grant in the program's history.

Here is how it works.

AVMA must submit a proposal for grant monies. The proposal is reviewed by the AVMF's board of directors. They can accept or reject the proposed grant. If accepted, the board also determines funding levels.

Lovern explains the grant proposal included a very detailed budget. The three main areas are for VMAT teams, disaster education literature for veterinarians and clients, as well as travel expenses for presentations by officials on disaster response and VMAT teams.

Lovern says that much of this activity is focused on planning with other organizations in emergency management, state associations or other veterinary groups, departments of agriculture and general disaster planning groups. "The message we usually try to get out is what are VMATs capable of and how do we get them deployed to help in disasters."

Other points AVMA details are the multitude of issues that result in treating animals in disasters and what practitioners can expect.

AVMF has a dedicated disaster relief emergency fund which helps defray costs of VMAT teams as well as reimburse local veterinarians in the United States who have treated animals that have been injured in a disaster.

AVMF donors contributed about $400,000 in the aftermath of September 11 terrorists attacks. Major supporters included: The Iams Company, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Pfizer Inc., the Gracie Foundation/Three Dog Bakery, Abbott Laboratories and Fort Dodge Animal Health.

For more information on AVMF, go to www.avmf.org.

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