Facing tragedy


Springdale, Pa. - "Thick, black smoke blinded me," recounts Mark Jasmine, DVM, of his last desperate attempt to save his burning clinic. He escaped only with his family and two patients.

SPRINGDALE, PA. — "Thick, black smoke blinded me," recounts Mark Jasmine, DVM, of his last desperate attempt to save his burning clinic. He escaped only with his family and two patients.

Dave Novak

After 20 years in business, Jasmine started the morning of Oct. 11 like any other, treating animals at the Jasmine Veterinary Hospital, a small-town clinic about 18 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. After finishing surgery on a feline patient, Jasmine began a spay procedure on a pit bull dog in his operating room, just below the building's second-floor apartment, where he lived with his wife Mayyada and their four boys, ages 3, 4, 7 and 8.

With the dog still in surgery, Jasmine's oldest son, who had stayed home from school because of illness, alerted him to a fire that started in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Retrieving his fire extinguisher and helping his wife and children to safety, Jasmine went back to the second floor, hoping to put out the fire.

Quickly driven back by heavy smoke, Jasmine felt his way downstairs and wheeled the canine patient, still strapped to the surgical table, out of the building.

Though still under anesthesia, the dog's safety was far from guaranteed. Jasmine ran back into the burning building, bringing out his feline patient and his surgical tools to save the dog.

"I took the dog on a surgery table to the parking lot of the auto-repair shop next door. My wife held the dog and I finished the stitching," he says. "She was covering me and the dog with a blanket so debris from the building wasn't getting near the incision."

After completing the surgery, Jasmine sent the dog to a nearby clinic for monitoring. It recovered fully.

But Jasmine says saving the dog was more an act of instict — acting without thinking — than courage.

"I wasn't a hero. I was just doing my job," he says. "If I was thinking, I wouldn't have gone back in there. I just did it. You don't really think in a moment like that."

After everyone's safety was assured, he and Mayyada watched the flames ravage the clinic and their home.

"It was burned pretty heavily. The second floor is demolished. The fire took more than half the roof off," says Allegheny County Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Don Brucker. Damage was reported at $250,000. Investigation continues, but a bedroom lamp is considered a possible cause.

Now living in an efficiency apartment with his family, Jasmine continues to work at his second clinic in North Huntingdon, and wants to rebuild his Springdale practice.

"It will be a minimum of about $400,000 to rebuild, but I want to. I have a lot of memories there, and we are hoping to do it in about six months," Jasmine says.

But the process may seem even longer, especially when living with four young boys cooped up in a single-bedroom apartment. "They have a lot of energy, and to express that energy in one room is hard. They jump from bed to bed, have shoe fights. They want to run, jump and play," Jasmine says.

Besides rebuilding, the family is struggling to replace lost possessions. Jasmine had only a small insurance policy for his practice and none for his home.

"We are just trying to get our life back to the way it was," says Jasmine, who, while living in the kitchenless apartment, admits his wife's cooking is one of the things he misses most about home.

But not all things can be replaced. Fluffy, the cat of Jasmine's oldest son, has been missing since the fire. "Once in a while he cries for his cat. I think she is OK, but we haven't seen her yet. He misses her," Jasmine says.

Despite their loss, Jasmine and his family try to remain optimistic."We love the neighborhood and have been part of it for 20 years," he says. "We will restore the building and one day open it again."

In case of emergency ...

By Krista Schultz


SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — Are you really prepared for an emergency?

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends practices have thorough disaster-preparedness plans, both to safeguard staff members and patients and to ensure the business is adequately insured.

AVMA suggests these five steps:

Emergency relocation of animals

Not only do you need a place to take animals, but the means and supplies to get them there. Leashes, collars and carriers should be on hand, along with a transport vehicle. A 24-hour client contact list can help you keep pet owners informed on where their animals are and how to reach you.

Medical record back-up

Rather than using a fireproof safe or on-site storage, keep copies of important documents and client records, an itemized inventory and a back-up computer system off site.

Continuity of operations

A generator will keep things running during power outages, downed phone lines or cellular service disruptions. It can sustain refrigeration equipment for medical supplies and patient samples. In addition to emergency food, water and prescription stockpiles, have a 24-hour contact list of suppliers for items needed immediately.

Veterinarians can partner with a sister practice and use that facility if they are displaced.


Request a fire department inspection, install emergency lighting, practice evacuation drills and maintain a water system separate from the electrical system. Medical supplies, such as oxygen tanks, and hazardous items should be isolated, along with pharmaceuticals and prescriptions.

Pre-arranging an off-site meeting location will limit panic and keep staff members informed.

Insurance and legal coverage

Have a current, comprehensive insurance policy, reviewed by your legal counsel. Coverage should include business interruption, loss of income, professional extension, water or fire damage, comprehensive building and structure replacement, coverage of rented or leased equipment and general and professional liability. Also videotape and photograph inventory and become familiar with tax laws and deductible disaster expenses.

U.S. is free of canine rabies but must stay vigilant, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally declared the United States free of canine rabies.

But with so many access points into the country and the threat of canine/wildlife interactions, vigilance will be key to keeping the disease at bay, experts say.

"The (canine) rabies-free status is a solid one, with enhanced surveillance going on in most states, but our porous borders are of some concern, as is importation of dogs from many countries," Dr. Charles Rupprecht, VMD, PhD and chief of the CDC's rabies program, tells DVM Newsmagazine.

"Mexico has made great progress in canine-rabies control — almost mirroring what's been done here and in Canada," Rupprecht says, "but globally it's still a problem, especially with importations. We are optimistic that what we've accomplished can set the example throughout this hemisphere and eventually the world."

Canine-rabies elimination in this country was achieved through a high level of adherence to dog vaccinations and licensing and stray-dog control, according to the CDC.

"It is one of the major public-health success stories in the last 50 years. However, there is still much work to be done to prevent and control rabies globally," Rupprecht says.

"The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission doesn't mean that people can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies. It is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets. We need to stay vigilant," he says. "Our public-health infrastructure, including our quarantine stations, local animal-control programs, veterinarians and clinicians, plays a vital role in preserving our canine-rabies-free status."

The disease remains a human threat in the United States, particularly from bats, the CDC says. Rabies accounts for at least 55,000 human deaths annually worldwide.

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