September 11, 2011
SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 - *UPDATE* Veterinary Emergency Team
Continues Efforts in Bastrop
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - As the rest of the nation pauses to
remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Dr. Wesley Bissett,
assistant professor of large animal clinical sciences at Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
and director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET),
and his team also took time this morning to remember the heroes
from that day before returning to the work at hand - caring for the
animal victims of the Bastrop wildfire.
The area where they now operate has become a surreal, blackened
landscape where virtually everything is burned and black all the
way to the tree-tops. While the team continues to treat animals
that arrive singed and burned, in the middle of such devastation,
it illustrates the important role that those involved in the animal
response continue to play.
"Can you imagine how these animals survived," asks Bissett. "It
is the duty of our profession to take care of their needs. They are
important. They may be all a family has left of their former
Since deploying to Bastrop, the members of the Texas VET have
played a key role in the multi-agency response effort. The team has
seen approximately 100 rescued small animals brought in from areas
cleared by first responders, 50 of which needed fairly extensive
treatment. There have also been a few large animals seen as well,
some in shelters with injuries which occurred during the evacuation
The VET expanded operations in Bastrop earlier this week,
bringing both of their trailers and a field service vehicle which
increased the team's flexibility in responding to animals in
"In addition to the rescued animals, our team has continued our
work with the search and rescue dogs," said Bissett. "These dogs
are attached to Texas Task Force-1, and it is amazing to see how
these dogs are treated. They are so much more than tools, they are
true team members and receive the same care and respect as their
human counterparts. They have been working under difficult
conditions, and we have been providing them with fluid therapy as
well as dealing with the results of working across rough and hot
terrain. The members of TTF-1 are a truly impressive group who are
as concerned about the animals they find as the other aspects of
their job, never losing sympathy for the people and animals
affected by this wildfire."
Bissett also realizes that his team is only able to do their job
with the cooperation of other agencies. Financial support and
equipment support helped get this team started. The Texas
Department of Emergency Management, Coufal Prater, John Deere
Corporation, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners
Foundation provided early support that helped to make the VET a
"While I had only met Jack Colley, former head of the Texas
Department of Emergency Management, I heard many stories about how
much he loved animals and was committed to their care during
disasters," recalls Bissett. "He was instrumental in TDEM providing
the initial funding. I think he would be proud of what we have
built. Fortunately the commitment to excellence in emergency
response continues under the leadership of Chief Nim Kidd. The
emergency response system in the State of Texas is world-class.
This state does it right".
Two others instrumental in the development of the VET are Drs.
Dee Ellis and Matt Cochran of the Texas Animal Health Commission.
Bissett noted that it was at their urging that the VET unit was
developed for use in disasters, and they continue to be partners
with the VET in both service and education.
"TAHC continues to work closely with partners such as the TAMU
VET to help the local responders address the needs of animals in
response to the wildfires," said Amanda Bernhard, TAHC Emergency
Management Coordinator, echoing Bissett's commitment to the
partnership between the two organizations.
In addition to the search and rescue team from TTF-1, The Austin
and Bastrop Animal Control units continue to foray into areas
deemed clear by firefighters to search for animals in distress, and
to bring them to the VET for triage and emergency care.
"As our days alternate between quiet and intense action," said
Bissett, "it has been special and an honor to watch the diversity
of first responders, including our own team, pitch in to support
the emergency response with such dedication and commitment. They
have been handling the tasks at hand, whatever we are asked to face
each day, with professionalism and compassion. This has been an
extremely humbling experience for all of us, and today, on
Patriots' Day, while we remember those who responded ten years ago,
I want to recognize and thank the heroes that continue to work with
us and around us, deployed or not, that serve in difficult
conditions to make the world a safer place for all of us."
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