September 14, 2011
The number of animals seen by the Texas A&M Veterinary
Emergency Team has remained steady as team members continue
operating at the Bastrop Rodeo Arena. Two veterinarians and a total
of nine fourth year veterinary medical students have participated
in in the Bastrop Complex deployment, providing relief for other
members of the team.
"As of this moment, we anticipate continuing our operations
through the later part of the week," said Dr. Wesley Bissett,
assistant professor of large animal clinical sciences at Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
and director of the VET. "We could potentially de-mobilize on
Friday, but we are committed to serving as long as we are
Bissett noted that one of the challenges his team has faced
during this deployment has been dealing with equipment repair. Yet,
there are even positive stories that have come out of these types
of difficulties, which demonstrate not only the ability of the
Bastrop community to respond to an emergency, but also its
resilience and ability to recover.
"A perfect example is a mechanic from BaBa's Automotive Repair,"
said Bissett. "He came to our base of operations to help with a
mechanical issue we were having with our equipment and refused to
take any reimbursement for his efforts. He knew we were there to
support his community, and he came out to support our efforts. For
this we are grateful. There is no doubt in any of our minds that
this community has been dealt a serious blow, and at the same time
there is also no doubt the citizens of this town and county will
September 13, 2011
As more of the area affected by the Bastrop Complex wildfire is
brought under control, the number of animals being seen by the
Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team has been significantly
reduced. However, the services of this special team are still
needed to support local veterinarians and animal health officials
with those animals remaining in emergency shelters.
"For now, it looks like we will be remaining at our present
location here at the Bastrop Rodeo Complex until the end of the
week," said Dr. Wesley Bissett, assistant professor of large animal
clinical sciences at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences and director of the VET. "There are still
some animals found in affected areas that need treatment, as well
as the request from the State of Texas, Bastrop County, and the
local private practitioners to continue our assistance with the
care of the animals in the emergency shelters. It's our mission to
make sure that we are doing all we can to support this community's
veterinarians as they continue to respond to animal needs."
Dr. Bissett noted that as operations have slowed, he has been
able to reflect on the opportunity this deployment has provided his
team to meet and to work with new people.
"It's important for me to thank the members of the VET: Drs
Howe, Mays, Dominguez, Easterwood, Sprake, and Norton; veterinary
technicians Lessa Block, Dana Whitaker, Melissa Welch, and Carin
Ponder; and senior veterinary students Jaci Carriker, Josh Shield,
John Williams, Holly Marriott, Allegra Lamison, and Megan Gaines,"
said Bissett. "They have truly answered the call of animals in need
by deploying as part of our team."
In addition, Bissett recognized the extraordinary efforts of the
"We were able to work in cooperation with the skilled
practitioners representing practices such as the Bastrop Animal
Hospital, Hwy 71 Veterinary Hospital, and Crossroads Animal
Hospital, as well as numerous other private practitioners, to
deliver the very best care we could to not only the animals that
were evacuated, but those that were rescued from the fire as well,"
said Bissett. "They have done an extraordinary job and it has been
an honor to work with them."
Finally, Bissett noted the commitment and support the citizens
of Bastrop provided the VET.
"The citizens of Bastrop have been very supportive of the
response effort from law enforcement and emergency management
personnel, to the first responders and the rest of the community,"
said Bissett. "I am amazed at their dedication and their
resilience. It has been our pleasure to serve in their
So while those whose lives have been affected by the wildfire
wait to begin the process of recovery, the members of the VET will
continue their work, knowing that when they return to Texas
A&M, they will have made a positive impact on the community in
which they served and will have established strong connection to
the citizens of Bastrop as well as their animals.
September 12, 2011
While firefighters continue working to increase the control they
have over the wildfire burning in Bastrop, the Texas A&M
Veterinary Emergency Team will move its base of operations into the
Bastrop community. This will make the resources of the team more
accessible to the public, as well as to those who are currently
operating shelters for animals found in the affected area.
"On Tuesday morning, our plan is to perform a last assessment
and examination of the search and rescue dogs for Texas Task
Force-1 prior to their departure," said Dr. Wesley Bissett,
assistant professor of large animal clinical sciences at Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
and director of the VET. "Once that is complete, we will begin to
move our base of operations closer into the community so that we
can assist with the veterinary medical care for animals that have
been housed in the emergency shelters there, and ensure the needs
of animals are being met as the re-entry process into some of the
affected areas begins."
The VET has been deployed in the Bastrop area since the
beginning of last week, and anticipates returning to College
Station toward the end of this week as the fire is brought under
control and local responders and veterinary practitioners are able
to meet the needs of the affected animals.
"This has been an incredible exercise in teamwork," said
Bissett, "involving multiple agencies and private veterinary
practitioners. It has been truly a privilege to work with such
professional teams as we responded to animals in need."
September 11, 2011
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
"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."
September 10, 2011
The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team is continuing their
response effort in Bastrop, and have now moved their base of
operations closer to the front line on the southeast side of the
community. Their continuing mission is providing support and care
for search and rescue dogs belonging to Texas Task Force-1, as well
as triage for animals brought in from areas that have been cleared
for animal control officials to enter.
"We now have both of our response trailers in operation," said
Dr. Wesley Bissett, assistant professor of large animal clinical
sciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences. "In addition, we have a field service vehicle
available which allows us to be more flexible in our response.
Primarily we continue to see small animals with burn injuries, but
we are prepared for whatever comes our way. We are beginning to
rotate some of our staff this weekend, and will have three new
veterinary medical students joining our efforts."
Bissett noted that a response to animals in the midst of a
disaster this size is only possible through organized cooperation,
coordination, and teamwork. Dr. Terry Hensley, assistant executive
director of the Texas Animal Health Commission, agrees with
"We are glad we have such a reliable partner in the CVM VET,"
said Hensley. "Our organizations have a variety of skills that
complement each other in our shared mission of addressing the needs
of animals in disaster situations."
September 9, 2011
As more area becomes accessible to responders in Bastrop County,
the number of animals arriving at the Veterinary Emergency Team
triage center continues to increase. Beginning last night and
continuing this morning, VET members are working to expand the size
of their operational base to accommodate the animals that are
brought in by animal control officials.
"We are still seeing a large number of domestic animals such as
dogs, cats, and horses," said Dr. Wesley Bissett, assistant
professor of large animal clinical sciences and director of the
VET. "We have also seen some livestock and are beginning to see
some small wild animals."
Bissett noted that due to the location of this wildfire and the
area that it is affecting, the team has been prepared to see all
kinds of animals and provide triage services so that these animals
can better receive the treatment and shelter they need.
"It has been a true team effort in dealing with the animal side
of this response effort," said Bissett. "It is a distinct pleasure
for our team of faculty, staff, and students to be able to work
alongside such experienced and professional teams from the Texas
Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Animal Health
Commission, Texas Task Force-1, the Travis County Animal Control
team, and the Bastrop County Sherrif's Office, as well as the
Livestock Control Officers of Bastrop County. We are glad that we
are able to support their efforts through our service."
As the battle to contain the Bastrop County wildfire continues,
Bissett and the members of the VET will continue evaluating and
assessing the needs of not only the animals in the area, but the
needs of VET members, with decisions potentially being made on the
need to expand the size of the team and/or to rotate members into
and out of the area.
September 8, 2011
After an initial assessment yesterday with Texas Animal Health
Commission officials, members of the Veterinary Emergency Team
returned to Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences to bring in additional personnel and equipment
to respond to the urgent needs of animal injuries in the wake of
the Bastrop wildfire.
"It was busier today," said Dr. Wesley Bissett, professor of
large animal clinical sciences and director of the VET. "We saw a
number of animals, both large and small, and primarily burn
injuries. We've been performing triage on these rescued pets and
livestock with those that needed no further treatment transported
to shelters in the area, while those that needed additional care
were sent to local practitioners in the area."
Currently, there is a 13-member team comprised of faculty,
staff, and students active in the response effort. Working out of
the VET surgical trailer that is also set up for triage and
examinations, the VET continues to see injured animals brought out
of the affected area in addition to continued support of Texas Task
Force-1 by performing end of operations evaluations on their search
and rescue dogs, dealing with any injuries they may have
"It is a privilege to work with such a knowledgeable and
dedicated group," said Bissett. "The members of TTF-1 have been
great to work with. In addition, the Bastrop community has done an
amazing job in a tragic situation. This is particularly the case
with the local veterinarians in the area. They have been available
to their communities' animals and have done an incredible job. This
has truly been a great team effort by all who have responded to
meet the needs of not only the people affected by this wildfire,
but also the animals."
Tonight, the VET will work to set up a larger base of operations
for both the members supporting TTF-1 and those that are responding
to injured animals brought in from the affected area. This move
will prepare the team to deal with what is anticipated to be busier
days ahead when more animals are discovered as the fire comes under
control and animal control officials are able to reach other
September 7, 2011
At the request of Texas Task Force-1 (TTF-1), a component of the
Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has deployed to
the Bastrop wildfires Wednesday morning. Drs. Lisa Howe and
Philippa Sprake; veterinary technicians Dana Whitaker, Karin Ponder
and Lessa Block; and senior veterinary students John Williams and
Jaci Carriker joined TTF-1 to provide veterinary support for the
task force's search and rescue dogs.
In addition, Dr. Wesley Bissett, Dr. Norberto Espitia, Dr.
Glennon Mays, and fourth year veterinary student Josh Shields
traveled to the affected area to work with Texas Animal Health
Commission to assess animal needs as a result of the wildfires.
"We have worked throughout the day to determine what the
situation is with animals in the affected areas," said Bissett. "We
have had the opportunity to work with local veterinarians in the
area, representatives from the Texas Department of Emergency
Management, and the team from the Texas Animal Health Commission to
identify the most urgent needs for these animals and to develop an
appropriate and coordinated response."
From what was seen during today's assessment, officials are
still working to determine just how many more members of the VET
need to respond. That answer could come as early as this evening,
but potentially Thursday morning as first responders battle a
wildfire that continues to consume large amounts of acreage in the
The VET, which was formally unveiled in 2010, is a team that
consists of veterinary faculty, veterinary technicians, veterinary
students, and staff from the CVM that are deployable through
official requests from the state in response to animals in disaster