Veterinary Emergency Team cares for animals found near Texas explosion site


Many residents are reporting lost pets after Wednesday's explosion.

Friday, almost two days after the fire and subsequent explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant, search and rescue continues. Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) Director Wesley Bissett, DVM, says the emergency response is working diligently and the number of animals the team has seen has increased.

“The response is organized very well and we’ve got animal control intercepting a number of animals,” Bissett told dvm360 from the VET station set up several blocks from the blast site. “Any animals that are picked up or are found come through us to get a clean bill of health before they go to the shelter.”

Jaye Meurer, whose husband, Tom Meurer, DVM, owns West Animal Clinic in the small town, says many pets are missing. “We’ve had several people call to say they’ve lost their pets,” Meurer says.

Bissett says an integrated system where the search and rescue teams, animal control officers and the VET group work together is critically important. “It allows animal issues to be identified and dealt with almost immediately,” Bissett says. Animals are being taken to the Waco Humane Society for emergency sheltering. Photos of found animals are displayed on its Facebook page and listed on to try to reunite owners with missing pets.

Fortunately, animals brought to the emergency team have not had severe injuries. “We’re seeing less injuries at this point than I expect and that’s a wonderful thing,” Bissett says. Amidst this disaster, it’s helped to see the work of the senior students deployed with the team. “I see them pitching in and they’e carrying the torch of our profession and that makes you really, really proud,” he says.

Bissett says the community there is dealing with a great deal--the death toll has been reported to be at least 12 and is expected to rise--but the residents’ strength and perseverance are astonishing.

“It’s hard, but we’re managing,” Meurer says. She says the practice considers itself lucky; no staff members lost homes or suffered injuries in the blast.

“You know as Americans we have such an indomitable spirit,” Bissett says. “While you see sadness and a little bit of shock, you see a determination to recover. It’s an inspiring thing to behold.”

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