Should animals be injured in a disaster, their owners can rest assured that the National Veterinary Response Team will be on the scene as soon as possible.
The team is a cadre of individuals within the government’s National Disaster Medical System who treat injured or ill animals affected by disasters. While the care is normally extended to dogs, cats and other pets, livestock and wild animals also fall under the team’s watch.
The group most recently saw action last month in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and Dr. Sandi Norman, who practiced at South 31 Veterinary Clinic some 20 years ago, was a member of the team.
Before Matthew wreaked havoc in the southeastern United States, Norman and her team were prepositioned in Baltimore, Md., waiting to respond.
The team provided care to 197 household pets (a few exotic ones) and service animals belonging to people staying in shelters, hotels and homes in Ridgeland, S.C. Stray animals were also brought in by residents
It was her second deployment in the aftermath of a hurricane, the first being Katrina in 2005. “I was in Louisiana for 2 1/2 weeks after Katrina hit,” said Norman, who serves as the director of companion animal/equine at the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. In her role there she deals with anything that is related to animal health.
She has been activated for other storms – but her services were not needed – and for special events like the U.N. General Assembly.
“My work with the team is very rewarding. I enjoy helping people and caring for the pets,” said Norman.
There are 10 regional team areas across the country, and anyone be deployed wherever needed. Each month team members are required to list their dates of availability.
“We are always prepared to respond,” said Norman, who attends an annual training program. “The more prepared we are, the better we handle the situation.”
Ron Miller, acting director of the National Disaster Medical System, said every disaster, particularly hurricanes, carries the potential for extensive power outages and flooding. “When a state requests our assistance we will gladly be there to serve until the last patient leaves our care.”