Fire and rain: Veterinarians continue to combat natural disasters on both coasts

September 29, 2017
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM

Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.

Hurricane Irma and wildfires in the Northwest keep clinic teams busy protecting pets and livestockas well as themselves.

Residents of Jacksonville, Florida, deal with urban flooding in a residential area adjacent to the St. Johns River. Photo courtesy of Peter Kimmel, First Coast No More Homeless Pets.As if Hurricane Harvey weren't enough of a destructive force in recent months, veterinary teams have also battled the effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida and wildfires in the state of Oregon this late summer and into early fall. Hundreds of individual practitioners and dozens of professional organizations have been affected, whether they're evacuating, helping clients, assisting in relief efforts-or all of the above.

Report from Florida: Hurricane Irma

On September 8, as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the state of Florida, Island Hammock Pet Hospital in Key Largo, Florida, was boarding up and shutting down. Owner Martha Edwards, DVM, said her hospital would be closed until the road to the Keys was reopened, and her entire staff was under mandatory evacuation.

“I'm tired,” she told dvm360. And she sounded it. Dr. Edwards explained that hurricane season was nothing new for Floridians, but it was still a massive chore to get all her vaccination and health records printed, faxed and emailed to her hundreds of clients who were also under evacuation.

Some people elected not to evacuate, she said, because they couldn't take their pets with them. As long as the phone lines held, she would continue to take consultations over the phone for her clients.

After the hurricane hit, despite loss of power and major flooding throughout the Keys, Island Hammock was up and fully operational 11 days after Hurricane Irma, according to the practice's website.

First Coast No More Homeless Pets, a veterinary clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, was hit hard by flooding and loss of power, says its CEO, Rick DuCharme. What's more, First Coast is providing relief and support in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Sadly, one of his employees who is currently deployed in Texas to assist with humanitarian efforts there lost her home in Florida to flooding from Hurricane Irma.

First Coast and Best Friends Animal Society are joining forces to support animal welfare groups across Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma's devastation, DuCharme says. A logistics and distribution center to support animal welfare organizations across the hard-hit state has opened at the Cassat Regional Veterinary Hospital in Jacksonville.

Currently, Florida shelters are full of lost and displaced animals, and more are expected to arrive.

The Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA), in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, maintains two organizations that mobilize during and after a catastrophe-the Florida Veterinary Corps and the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) Team, according to the FVMA.

Veterinary volunteers are needed to assist with these groups' efforts, officials say, and veterinarians and technicians who would like to volunteer can register on the FVMA website. Self-deploying is discouraged, since it can complicate the work of local emergency organizations. Officials say they will turn away any volunteers who are not part of a trained and credentialed team. Financial contributions can also be made through the FVMA website.

Report from Oregon: Wildfires

In the meantime, as veterinarians in the Southeast dealt with the aftereffects of too much rain, those in the Northwest wished they could get some. Hundreds of animals and people have been under mandatory evacuation recently as wildfires in Oregon have encroached on inhabited areas. Here are some examples of how veterinarians and animal welfare groups have been affected from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association:

> Since evacuation notices went out in Curry County, John Jacobson, DVM, and his team at Town and Country Animal Clinic in Brookings, Oregon, have taken in more than 85 dogs and cats. Both Hill's Pet Nutrition and Purina have provided the clinic with necessary food, and Henry Schein has distributed supplies to clinics in that area. The Curry County fairgrounds are housing a variety of pets and livestock.

Supplies donated by Henry Schein to Town and Country Animal Clinic, which cared for between 80 and 90 dogs and cats at no expense to their owners during evacuations due to wildfires in Oregon. Photo courtesy of Town and Country Animal Clinic.> As fires in Jackson County spread, Sanctuary One, a rescue for farm animals and household pets, looked to temporarily re-home the animals in its care when an evacuation notice was issued. Equamore Horse Sanctuary in Ashland housed the horses, the Southern Oregon Humane Society took all of the facility's dogs, and Brad Frank, DVM, and his team at Jacksonville Veterinary Hospital provided shelter for all of the cats.

> Sound Equine Options coordinated efforts with Multnomah County Animal Services to evacuate horses and livestock threatened by fire in the Columbia River Gorge. In just a few days, they hauled close to 100 animals-horses, goats, sheep, cows, alpacas and llamas-to secure evacuation areas. Sound Equine Options was established by Scott Hansen, DVM, of Columbia Equine Hospital in Gresham, Oregon.

> VCA hospitals throughout the region offered to provide boarding and medical care for animals displaced or evacuated because of the wildfires, according to a release from VCA.

Veterinarians who would like to help can fill out a form for Multnomah County Animal Services or call (503) 988-7387. To make a monetary donation, visit the organization's website.

Dr. Sarah Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado; public speaking on associate issues, leadership and client communication; and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA and participating in triathlons.