Bissett Testifies on Animals in Disasters Before House Subcommittee

Dr. Wesley Bissett during his testimonyDr. Wesley Bissett, director of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Emergency Team (VET), recently testified on how disasters impact animals before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

On Feb. 12, Bissett, who also serves as an associate professor of emergency management at the CVM, attended the “Animals in Disasters” hearing in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of caring for animals during and after natural and man-made disasters.

The hearing was called to discuss current federal efforts to care for animals in disasters and how those efforts can be improved to better promote animal welfare.

“All too often, disaster impacts on animals and their owners are seen as separate issues,” Bissett said during the hearing. “As you will hear from my testimony, they are one and the same and must be looked at in that manner.”

As Bissett and other members of the VET have seen firsthand, people often factor in their animals when making decisions during disaster situations. Some would rather risk their own lives than leave a pet behind.

“As the director of the Texas A&M VET, I’ve experienced how intertwined the human and animal condition is through our response to numerous disasters in Texas and the Camp Wildlife in Paradise, California,” Bissett said. “The highest priority—human health, wellbeing, and safety—can never be fully addressed without addressing the animal condition.”

He discussed the importance of the VET to Texas’ animals and the VET’s work in four domains—aid in local-level emergency planning, veterinary medical support in response to disasters, care for Texas Task Force and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) canines, and training of veterinary students in emergency response.

To watch a recording of the hearing and access a copy of Bissett’s full written testimony, visit https://transportation.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/animals-in-disasters.

Bissett was joined at the hearing by fellow witnesses Dr. R. Douglas Meckes, the North Carolina state veterinarian; Teresa MacPherson, a canine search specialist for Virginia Task Force 1; and Richard Patch, the vice president of federal affairs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, under the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is responsible for the authorization and oversight of programs addressing the federal management of emergencies and disasters, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).