Government agencies begin relief efforts for animals affected by Hurricane Harvey

September 1, 2017

Texas veterinary board, animal health commission, USDA and more begin outreach in areas inundated with water in the storm's wake.

Hurricane Harvey left widespread flooding in its wake. | Photo courtesy of Jason Leavitt

Several groups in Texas have begun outreach in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm just outside of Corpus Christi, Texas, on Friday, August 25, and then stalled dropping national record-breaking amounts of rain as it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Here's a roundup of relief efforts underway, and in some cases, how you can get involved.

Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) is offering temporary emergency licenses to out-of-state veterinarians who want to come to Texas to provide relief veterinary services but do not hold a Texas license, according to an announcement on the board website. The application packet and instructions can be downloaded here. Processing the temporary license applications will be a priority during recovery and the TBVME plans to issue licenses within one business day, if possible. Be sure to include your email address on the application, as the temporary licenses will be emailed. Questions about this process can be directed to Marilyn Hartman, director of licensing, at, or by calling (512) 305-7558.

Texas Animal Health Commission

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is the state's coordinating agency for all disaster response issues related to animals, both large and small, including livestock, pets and zoo animals, according to a commission release. A list of shelters available to receive animals-a number that fluctuates as response efforts continue-along with barn and pasture space available from private owners is available here or by residents can call 2-1-1. Experts are advising residents to call the facility first to check capacity because conditions change frequently.

The TAHC has set up an Animal Response Operations Coordination Center (AROCC) at its headquarters in Austin to coordinate the efforts of state, federal, industry and nongovernmental agencies with an animal focus. The AROCC can be reached by calling (512) 719-0799 or (800) 550-8242, ext. 799.

To manage the large number of livestock displaced by high winds, flooding and damaged fences, the TAHC is coordinating with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension to establish livestock supply points and with the Texas Department of Agriculture to receive and distribute donations of hay and livestock feed. It has also asked for the services of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Special Rangers to assist in the capture of stray livestock to return them home.

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team has been deployed in response to the impact from Hurricane Harvey. A smaller advance team went toward the anticipated landfall area before the storm hit, the group says. They are providing support for the Texas Task Force 1 search and rescue teams as they have begun operations post-impact. The larger portion of the team and its equipment departed for recovery efforts on Sunday, Aug. 27. The team is currently assigned to Fort Bend County and is assisting 10 search-and-rescue dogs that are part of Texas Task Force 1 and 2, the group wrote on its Facebook page. Students on the Veterinary Emergency Team have used the opportunity to learn about caring for the specialized canines and working with their handlers.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is positioning staff in key areas in Texas and Louisiana where flooding may cause further damage and to aid producers, it stated in a release. APHIS is also helping to meet the emergency needs of pets and their owners as inspectors are coordinating with zoos, breeders and other licensed facilities in the area to ensure the safety of the animals in their care.

From a livestock standpoint APHIS veterinarians are working with the Texas Animal Health Commission to complete on-site assessments to document the needs of producers whose ranches were in the path of the storm. The needs assessments are being shared with the joint state-federal emergency operations center, the agency says.

Henry Schein

While Henry Schein isn't a governmental agency, the company reminds veterinarians that its disaster relief hotline is open to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Customers who experience operational, logistical or financial issues are encouraged to call (800) 999-9729, according to the company. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.