Texas A&M's Veterinary Emergency Team Assists in Hurricane Harvey Search and Rescue
Posted September 05, 2017
Dr. Deb Zoran and fouth-year DVM students on the VET rotation
discuss the care of search and rescue canines while deployed in
Fort Bend County.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency
Team (VET) is offering medical support to urban search-and-rescue
task force canines and other injured or stranded animals at the
request of multiple areas along the Texas coastline that have been
negatively impacted by the extreme flooding resulting from
A team of four deployed on Aug. 25 to the Rockport, Texas, area
to care for the search-and-rescue canines used in the Texas Task
Force 1’s (TTF1) recovery efforts in the ravaged city.
On Aug. 28, a second team of 21, including five fourth-year
veterinary students on the VET rotation at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM),
deployed to join the four in Aransas Pass, Texas, when the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reassigned TTF and VET to Fort
Bend County to assist with the extensive flooding in the Houston
Since reaching Fort Bend County, the VET has overseen the
treatment and care for large animals sheltered on site; has
accepted more than three dozen companion animals for evaluation and
treatment; continued to care for the TTF1 and TTF2
search-and-rescue canines; coordinated with emergency management
officials on areas of concern; and continued instruction with the
VET rotation students, highlighting the specialty care required for
search-and-rescue canines, as well as in the areas of emergency
care triage and inventory control.
Dr. Jackie Davidson and Rudy Madrigal treat an injured leg on
Freckles, a dog owned by local resident Melanie White. Davidson and
Madrigal have treated approximately 60 animals while deployed as a
team for the VET in Rockport.
Also since then, smaller teams have branched out to other areas
requesting medical support and assistance, providing day support to
search-and-rescue canines that are part of a in FEMA-supported
Incident Support Team in Katy and deploying to Chambers County, as
well as back to Rockport.
“The damage and destruction from Hurricane Harvey has been a
challenge for all response groups,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett,
founding director of the VET. “Now that the water is receding, more
animals that were not evacuated are being located and brought to
local sheltering operations. The VET is supporting these animals by
providing triage and assessing any injuries and health status,
providing treatment when necessary, and ensuring these animals are
sheltered locally in a safe place so they can be reunited with
The flood waters are especially problematic for the
search-and-rescue canines, as well as resident animals, in that
these waters are very contaminated. The VET developed a special
decontamination unit to assist in removing the contaminants from
the search-and-rescue dogs and other small animals brought to the
VET base of operations.
The team’s care for the TTF1 and TTF2 search-and-rescue canines
is critical as they venture into the dangerous debris left in the
aftermath of natural disasters in search of trapped humans.
One TTF2 member said that when on the scene, handlers are often
focused on the dogs’ reactions in guiding them to find the lost or
missing but that handlers sometimes miss the nuances that can
indicate their dog may be injured, such as a slight limp or change
"The search and rescue dogs work in really challenging
environments; they have to search in mud, debris, and even downed
power lines. They maneuver themselves into places where humans
can't go, and because of that there are some immediate risks," said
Angela Clendenin, VET public information officer. “Taking good care
of their medical needs and making sure they are healthy before they
leaver our base allows them to be more efficient in the field,
which means they can continue to work hard saving lives.”
VET members anticipate being deployed for at least a month in
multiple locations as requested by county and community officials
and response partners.
"It's humbling to be invited into a community, or to be invited
to partner with another response team like Texas Task Force 1, to
do our part and to help the citizens of Texas in their time of
need," Clendenin said.
The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has
set up the Veterinary Emergency Disaster Fund, with proceeds
benefiting the VET. Visit tx.ag/CVMVETFund for details.
Those interested in the VET’s actions on deployment can follow
the VET on Facebook.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us
on Facebook , Instagram , and Twitter.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; firstname.lastname@example.org ;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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