VET, AgriLife Return Home From First Out-Of-State Deployment
Posted January 16, 2019
After almost a month in
Butte County, California, members of the Texas A&M Veterinary
Emergency Team (VET) and AgriLife Extension Service are beginning
their journey home today.
During the 29-day deployment, the team’s first outside of Texas,
12 members of the VET and seven AgriLife Extension agents from
across Texas worked at the Del Oro Emergency Animal Shelter in
Oroville, California, aiding with volunteer, inventory, and data
management, as well as medical care to the many animals sheltered
"The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
(CVM) is always proud of the work our Veterinary Emergency Team
does in serving the people of Texas during their time of need,"
said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary
Medicine at Texas A&M University. "The fact that they gave up
their holidays with their families to work so hard during a time of
need for the victims of the Paradise Camp Fire shows their
dedication to serving people and animals across the nation."
While the conditions were cold and rainy, often accompanied by
high wind speeds (and one day, a tornado warning!), VET members and
AgriLife Extension agents stayed busy, working with the Butte
County Incident Command, California National Guard, San Jose
Conservation Corps, and North Valley Animal Disaster Group at the
shelter and providing oversight in the efforts to return sheltered
pets to their owners, reunite those that were lost or missing with
their owners, and send unclaimed animals to area shelters as those
shelters had space open up and were again able to accommodate more
“This was such a different deployment. We came in late rather
than early and arrived to find a difficult situation,” said Dr.
Wesley Bissett, VET director and associate professor in the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
“Butte County was faced with an overwhelming incident that was
10 times larger than anything they had ever faced,” he said.
“Imagine towns the size of perhaps Bastrop that had been basically
destroyed. This was worse (than the 2011 Bastrop County wildfire)
from the perspective of the number of homes destroyed, lives lost,
and complete destruction of a town.”
Bissett said the arrival of the VET came when the emergency
shelter needed it most.
“The magnitude of this disaster required response resources from
local, state, and federal levels of government,” he said. “Our
first task at the shelter was to work with everyone so that we were
all on the same page. A large part of this was gaining this
community’s trust. This was accomplished and we moved on to getting
the medical situations stabilized, the logistics aspect organized,
data management reconciled, and the overall situation improved for
responder and animal. These changes were striking and occurred
rapidly thanks to the hard work of all involved. This was truly a
community effort that extended from Butte County Animal Control
leadership down to each of the units involved in this response.
“The days were long and the weather was at its worst, but it all
paid off in terms of smiles, new relationships, and happier,
healthier animals,” he said.
In working to spread the Aggie Spirit, team members were struck
and humbled by the outpouring of love and support witnessed
among members of the National Guard and the volunteers serving at
the shelter site, many of whom are victims of the Camp Fire,
themselves; on top of that, these were people facing almost
complete destruction of Paradise. The stories team members heard
from victims and the destruction witnessed as a result of the fire
will be one that the Texas A&M contingent will never
“This has been an amazing deployment that has really showcased
the capabilities of the VET and AgriLife Extension,” Bissett said.
“I think more importantly, it has showcased just how powerful it is
for us to work closely together.”
As team members prepared to depart, Bissett said he also was
struck by the role Texas A&M and the Texas A&M University’s
System’s plays in these kinds of situations; in addition to the VET
and the AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Task Force 1 and the
Forest Service also responded to the Camp Fire. But goodbyes, he
said, are never easy.
“Our final departure will be tough. We have been here a long
time and have developed such good friendships with everyone—the
bonds we develop with a community that we respond to is always
incredibly strong,” he said. “I suspect that there will be tears
all around, but it will be time for us to go. As close as we have
all become, they cannot recover until we leave. As ready as I am to
come home, these will be tough goodbyes.”
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 Science; firstname.lastname@example.org;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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