|The LSU Experience|
The LSU Experience
Since I was tasked with setting up an animal shelter for owned animals, I was totally taken by surprise when I was suddenly Incident Commander. I was quickly schooled about the Incident Command System (ICS) and belatedly set up our command structure with lots of help. I soon learned that meetings were a big part of IC. I was overwhelmed from the start but I had a great support group. The LSU AG Center had a meeting room, which was one of the few rooms with AC, and this became our headquarters and command. We had to bring in everything for communications and Internet access. The command room became our information storage room as well. We not only had our staff meetings there but also had briefings for new groups of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. We also had our computer people working in command. The command room was also used to cool off in. As the shelter grew in size so did our need for additional help in all areas. What was amazing was the response. As a need was identified, someone would come forward to meet the challenge. The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine was the backbone of the structure of IC. The SVM not only provided people and expertise but also necessary contacts for supplies and personnel. It was truly an awesome experience to work with so many inspired individuals who gave so much of their time and experience to help others.
The LSU Experience: Animal operations
I served as operations manager of the Parker Coliseum from September 3 till the shelter closed on October 17. Operations became progressively larger as the shelter grew to the point where it was difficult to address all areas.
The LSU Ag Center’s Parker Coliseum facility lent itself quite well to our purpose and allowed appropriate separation of species. Small were separated from large dogs and cats were housed away from dogs. There was a paucity of air-conditioned space so we were limited in our ability to house some obese animals, birds and exotic animals.
During the early operation of the shelter, the lights were on 24/7 as we continued to take in animals constantly day and night. This constant disturbance may have contributed to stress and aggression. We adopted the following schedule of activity to address this issue.
Once this schedule was established, a definite change in animal behavior was noticed.
Security was an issue with pet theft high on the list. The adopted schedule assisted in personnel control by reducing access during the quiet times and at night. A perimeter fence was built around the barn but construction was delayed by 2 weeks because of the shortage of contractors. In the general widespread disaster, materials and workers were hard to come by. Serious consideration should be given to security from the beginning.
Daily operations ran more smoothly once the command system was set up. The barn and the arena were set up in such a way that this was a lot easier to achieve. The system was as follows with each animal zone having the following staff:
Area Manager: This person was ultimately responsible for the care of every animal in his/her zone. They assigned tasks to volunteers and served as the “go to” person in their zone. Ideally they should have work a distinctive colored shirt for easy recognition, but this seemed hard to achieve. Incoming veterinary and lay volunteers were directed to them for assignment and they could provide owners with information as well. Ideally this role was taken by a veterinarian or veterinary technician because there were usually several animals that needed medical attention in each zone. In all areas, it would have been ideal to have at least two people in this role. However, we did not have sufficient manpower to achieve this.
Information desk: This was set up in both the barn and the arena. It was never achieved with the cat area. This desk maintained all records and information on pets in their zone. Desk staff directed owners to their pets when they visited.
Medical Staff: Veterinarians and veterinarian technicians were assigned to treatment and diagnosis where necessary, vaccination, ecto- and endoparasite control, microchipping and handling aggressive animals.
Many animals became unkempt or arrived in that state so grooming and kennel washing areas were established. Professional groomers volunteered to assist.
Safety issues were a major problem. The main areas of concern were in the electrical wiring and proper handling of the quarternary ammonium compounds used to disinfect the cages during the cleaning process. Protective clothing, strict adherence to the Material Safety and Data Sheets MSDSs, and delivery through an automatic in-line mixer helped to solve many of the issues.
Calculation of manpower requirements was difficult because we always seemed to have a moving target both in the number of people we would need and the skill sets we required. Many volunteers had to serve in positions well outside their normal comfort zone.
We did not have specific written job descriptions for staff positions so casual volunteers tended to go off task and wander through the shelter to do something more to their liking or to look at and pet the animals. This increased the total manpower requirement.
In all positions throughout the shelter at all times training was essential. Our workforce was ever changing and institutional knowledge was hard to establish and maintain.
Communications were a problem at several levels. The establishment of a easy-to-use walkie-talkie style communication system throughout the shelter was a long time in coming but it really eased the operation of the shelter once it was procured and programmed.
The effective communication of ever changing policy from the command center to the workers on the floor also proved difficult because policy changed so often and so did the staff. A person who went away for a couple of days them came back to help would have to adapt to a new set of rules.
As operations manager, it was hard for me to find time to meet effectively with my immediate staff. However, we found time to do this on occasion when clear communication to all at once concerning changes in policy and impending events (shipping) needed to be disseminated.
Years ago I worked with a colleague whose mantra was: I’d rather be lucky than good. My assessment of safety at the Emergency Animal Shelter (EAS) is that we were more lucky than safe. The good news is that safety at the EAS became better over time. We now have an opportunity to plan for a much safer EAS if one is needed in the future.
Safety is defined as freedom from harm (physical injury). By minimizing or reducing the risk of exposure to hazardous situations, an acceptable degree of safely can be achieved. The key is to (1) identity hazards and (2) mitigate their exposure to shelter personnel. This requires a safety training program to be written before the next EAS is opened.
I believe a look back at the EAS at LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum and a look forward to future EAS operations is prudent.
Effective safety prevention and management requires (1) a people first policy, (2) an effective safety management organization, and (3) an effective safety training program.
If the mission of any EAS is the safety and welfare of the animals in its care, then the safety of EAS personnel must be assured in order to accomplish the mission. An effective safety management organization as defined in Figure 1 requires a close, active working relationship between four positions. The incident commander (or his/her designee), the facility manager, LSU (OES/SVM) Safety, and dedicated on-site safety personnel (volunteers) work together to implement the safety training program as designed by LSU Safety. The dedicated on-site safety personnel are tasked to (1) conduct on-going safety orientation sessions for all EAS personnel, (2) conduct a daily safety inspection of EAS operations with the facility manager, (3) monitor volunteers, and (4) train their (safety) replacements when necessary.
LSU-EAS Safety Management Organization
Upon admission, owners should be asked if they wish to give their animal up for adoption. If they do not sign a release at the time of intake, they should be provided with a release form and instructions on how (fax #, mailing address, etc.) to submit the release and to give all other necessary information (impound ticket, copy of driver’s license, etc.) to the shelter in the future if they change their
Foster days should be regular events and owners and potential fosters should be
made aware of the dates and times of these events. The more animals fostered the more animals that can be received into the shelter and the fewer animals the shelter will have to care for.
Adoptions should ideally not be carried out locally. If a professional staff is acquired from the start and made aware that there will be no adoptions from the outset there should not be a large number of volunteers who attach themselves to an animal and threaten to quit if they are unable to adopt.
It would be helpful to allay the fears of the staff if those in charge of choosing shelters for the animals to be moved to, made it a requirement that those shelters agree not to euthanize animals in their shelter to make room for disaster victims and also agree not to euthanize animals received from the disaster area except under limited conditions of failed health or extreme behavioral problems.
There were simply too many people with access to the database and enough outlets to access the database.
One person simply is not enough to fill a 12-hour shift 7 days a week
Screening potential adopters was not challenging as most volunteers were good applicants, but we could have done with fewer “recommendations” from the veterinarians on staff. While a hard working volunteer today may look like a good applicant, many of the veterinarians weren’t asking the questions necessary to ascertain if they would be the right home for the particular animal they wished to adopt.
Adoption counselors should be made aware of any behavioral or medical issues for any animal that is to be adopted locally. There was a lack of information in the database about the animals to be adopted, particularly those that were housed in the “will bite” section, had health problems, were considered an aggressive animal, or were a potentially aggressive breed, etc. Screening would benefit from more detailed information about the animals’ medical and behavioral characteristics and inclusion of this information in the database or at least in hardcopy form in their file. A detailed questionnaire about the animals should be filled out by the owner upon intake.
A behaviorist should be available to temperament test any animals deemed available for adoption if there is any question as to their fitness. Pit bulls and pit bull mixes, over a year of age, especially intact animals and animals whose history is not clear, should not be adopted out locally without prior temperament testing.
Too much time spent explaining/justifying the decisions of command to volunteers.
Dr. David Senior
The main problems encountered were heat stress and heat stroke; eye irritation; stress; induced aggressiveness; gastrointestinal upsets; and fleas.
The heat stress was obvious on admission and obese animals were the most severely affected. There were some obese animals that could not survive out of air-conditioned space and we assumed that they had probably never been outside for any length of time in the summer in Louisiana. In most cases the affected animals just needed to be given IV fluids, dampened and placed in an air-conditioned environment with a fan blowing at them for a few hours.
The cause of the eye irritation was never quite clear but it was very common. It responded to medication with ophthalmic ointment or benign neglect. In depth diagnostics were not performed.
An unusual number of animals appeared to be aggressive when entering the shelter and some continued with this behavior. After a few days of operating 24/7 with the lights blazing the whole time, we realized that the animals were not getting any rest time. Eventually, the facility was closed to accession at night after 10:00 p.m. and a “quiet time” was instituted between noon and 5:00 p.m. when the lights were turned off and all animal care and walking ceased. This seemed to help settle the animals down.
Gastrointestinal upsets were present and to some extent may have been exacerbated by changing the food on a daily basis. It was determined that we should change the diet to only one type: a low-residue “intestinal” diet and volunteers were asked not to overfeed, a plea that largely was ignored. The switch to a standardized diet seemed to help.
Flea control on admission to the facility was lax because of heavy burdens on incoming animals and poorly instituted point-of-entry flea treatment protocols. This resulted in the emergence of a heavy flea infestation at 5-6 weeks after the shelter was opened, particularly in the barn area. Animals were treated for fleas as they went home or were shipped to distant shelters. The dirt ground cover in the arena and barn areas had to be replaced.
One animal succumbed to electrocution after biting an electrical cord. Exposure to this preventable hazard was subsequently reduced by adherence to appropriate electrical wiring safety setups. Conduits were used wherever possible to distribute electrical power. Wiring was taped off the ground and out of reach.
At least two dogs suffered gastric volvulus and torsion and subsequently died or were euthanized. In addition, because the shelter system handled over 2,000 animals taken in unselectively, a wide spectrum of chronic disease was prevalent – some already under treatment from their owners and some pre-existing but diagnosed at the shelter. Several animals with diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure and nephritic syndrome were maintained. Some animals were at the beginning of their lives (several litters were born in the shelter) and some were at the end of their lives (a couple of animals were euthanized because of overwhelming disease).
At no time was a syndrome recognized that could be attributed to exposure to contaminated water in the flooded areas, at least for the 6-week life of the shelter.
Susan Mikota DVM, Barb Petty, and Katy Vernon
We had a great team that pulled together to learn regulations, develop forms and protocols and respond to the myriad of tasks necessary to arrange transfer of animals to remote shelters. Each team member was willing to do whatever was needed to be done to accomplish our shared goal of getting the animals safely to their destination. We received tremendous logistical support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare staff and from the USDA, Animal Care, whose representative was familiar with pertinent regulations and procedures.
Transportation of animals from the Emergency Animal Shelter (EAS) was done by USDA registrants. Their trailers or trucks had ventilation, lighting, and indicators in the towing vehicle. Personnel were trained to observe animals at a minimum of 4 hours. The crates used to contain the dogs were the plastic “sky kennel” or “pet porter” styles. All crates were selected according to the size of the dog or cat (dogs were measured for length and height). Crates for dogs had a thick layer (1.5 inches) of pine shavings and crates for cats had absorbable bedding of Ľ inch corn cob or recycled newspaper or cardboard that had been processed for litter box use (e.g. yesterday’s news).
Crate sizes for dogs and cats were selected to provide sufficient space for animals to stand, sit or turn around. All cats were in 22” crates so they would have sufficient space to stand, sit, or turn around. It was reported back that the cats arrived at their destination in much better condition than if they had been in the small crates that the shelters had planned to use.
All crates had a sipper-type water receptacle for constant water supply. The sippers were triggered when the animal was placed in the crate. Bowls and fresh water were sent with the animals in case they appeared to need water and could not figure out the sipper. (Most of the transport times were less than 12 hours.)
Dogs capable of chewing through transport containers were double crated. The sky kennel container was placed inside a wire crate for added security.
LIVE ANIMAL labels were clearly attached to the transport containers.
Each animal’s identification number was clearly written on the container to facilitate matching of the animal’s record with the container and the animal to reduce animal handling.
Documentation containing destination contact information and a statement that live animals were on board was clearly posted in the cab of the vehicle.
A copy of each animal’s shelter record was enclosed in a plastic zipper style bag with the animal’s identification number and photograph clearly visible. Medication, if any, was also in the bag. The zipper bags containing animal records were packed together in numerical order rather than attached individually to transport containers to prevent potential separation and loss.
Animal loading was accomplished using an assembly line format. The set up varied from shipment to shipment. The cat loading protocol was carried out with as few steps as possible to reduce stress to the animals. The cat was carried to a table, the microchip number was verified and the photograph was matched, a paper collar with the cat’s ID number was attached to the animal, and the cat was placed in the transport container. Attaching the paper collar was controversial because of the possibility that a cat might lick the collar into a dangerous position over its lower jaw, but we felt it was important that each animal wear an identification number. All cats arrived without injury. Dog loading required a larger space and multiple stations, each manned by a volunteer. This technique was chosen to provide exercise for the dogs prior to crating. Handlers, each carrying the transport copy of the record, walked the dogs, one at a time with ample space between, from the shelter crate through the stations until they reached the transport crate. Water was available to the dogs along the route. Station functions included microchip and photograph verification, ID collar attachment, outdoor exercise, administration of Capstar (not done on all shipments), and crating. Each animal’s microchip was checked a second time at the transport crate to verify that animals did not get out of order during the process.
Loading was scheduled to be done at night for three reasons: 1) the cooler temperatures were less stressful for the animals (and the people), 2) the loading process did not interfere with daily shelter operations, and 3) it provided a lower profile which was important because some people were not supportive of the decision to ship the animals out of the state.
Transport: Transport of live animals is not as simple as putting an animal in a kennel and then on a truck. We strived to follow the guidelines established in the Animal Welfare Act (see Animal Shipping, Forms, Protocols, and SOPs). We also summarized minimum transportation standards and included these as an addendum to our shelter contract when we thought that receiving shelters would arrange transport. In reality we arranged transport in most cases. Although this was more work, in the end it was for the best, as most receiving shelters were unaware of regulations, had unrealistic assessments of the number of animals their vehicles could hold (making it difficult for us to plan), or offered to move animals in vehicles such as horse trailers which were deemed unacceptable by our State Veterinarian.
Although a serious effort was made to comply with the AWA transportation standards, a common problem was the ability to easily observe or easily remove animals in case of emergency. We computer-mapped the dimensions of the trailer truck and the sizes of kennels and still ended up with very little space in between the crates facing each other.
It should be understood that the Animal Welfare Act also licenses and regulates intermediate handlers (drivers) who must follow rules or risk fines or license revocation.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) also comes into play. By law (current as of this writing), a single commercial driver
These regulations can make it difficult even for licensed carriers who want to help. In many cases agreeing to transport animals from a disaster area may mean turning down other (paid) business. Having funds available for transport is advisable. The 11-hour rule also impacted our planning as we did not want already stressed animals to remain in transport vehicles any longer than necessary. In some situations where remote shelters were in excess of an 11-hour driving distance, we arranged for two drivers so that there would be no lay-overs. Current regulations are on the DOT website: www.dot.gov.
Although the Emergency Animal Shelter had established a final pick-up date for owners to re-claim their animals, a large number of people requested extensions – some as long as two weeks past the “final” date. This made it almost impossible to sanely plan for transport to new shelters as the numbers of animals needing placement changed daily and we never really knew if the people who requested extensions would really come and claim their animals. This was compounded by a decision to allow local fostering and contingent adoptions which further confused the count of animals needing placement.
Identifying shelters: Many shelters offered assistance and we had more leads than we could respond to. Some shelters had restrictions based on available facilities (e.g. only able to take cats or small dogs) or shelter policy (e.g. “no pit bulls”). The latter was common and this breed was the most difficult to place. Some shelters requested behavioral evaluations which we tried to accommodate by separating out hard-to-handle animals and flagging behavioral issues on the Special Needs form. Names of potential shelters (and rescue groups) were sent to the ASPCA for screening which slowed the process but gave us confidence that we were sending these pets to reputable organizations.
Contracts: Developing the contracts was very time-consuming. These must have legal wording and approval. In our case IFAW helped by having their lawyers review and revise our draft documents.
Records: In an attempt to be thorough our record system contained a lot of duplicate information. For example, we had rabies vaccination information in 5 places. The records could be streamlined to avoid these redundancies. If enough computers are available direct electronic record entry may save time and prevent lost records Record forms should be developed with fields that will facilitate later data analysis (types of medical problems treated, for example).
What could be improved
A written disaster response plan is essential. The following items related to shipping animals to remote shelters should be included in this document:
One shipping experience was chaotic. There were too many people trying to help and no clear job assignments. There was a lot of noise and the disorganization added to the stress of the animals. We learned a lot from that event and recommend a debriefing after each shipment. Shipments which went more smoothly utilized the following recommendations:
The cat loading protocol should be carried out in a small enclosed space if possible to prevent escape.
Dr. David Senior
The most important public health issues in the shelter were animal bites, mental health issues and heat exhaustion.
The animal bites were handled with first aid and additional medical attention where necessary with standard documentation and an animal hold for 10 days. When owners wanted to take their animals, we requested that they present their animal to a veterinarian at the end of the 10 day “quarantine” period. The extent to which they complied was not determined.
Mental health issues were not addressed very effectively. Although there was a great need for mental health support among the owners of animals, particularly the owners of missing animals, we also needed support for shelter staff. People were very stressed and emotionally affected by the overall massiveness of the displacement and “refugee” atmosphere and dealing with suffering people on a daily basis was wearing. Lack of effective delivery could have had several causes: We did not always have services; people did not know when and where to access the services; not all people know when they need help; and not all people turn for such services even if they know they need the help. In some isolated instances, the mental health services personnel created more stress in shelter staff by regaling “war stories” from other areas of the rescue effort and the shelter management had requests to remove them. This relates to lack of experience among the mental health workers and maybe failure to recognize that many people were on edge, not only animal owners displaced from New Orleans.
The main working areas of the shelter were not air-conditioned and ambient temperature during the day in this environment approached 95-100 degrees F with 90% humidity. For heat exhaustion, all veterinary staff were advised to drink lots of water and to take frequent breaks. Not all followed this advice and we had several instances of people who had to stop work for a period of time or who had some trouble recovering after they left Louisiana at the end of their service period. Individuals who were obviously pushing themselves to a dangerous limit were counseled but not all took the advice.
Victoria Hampshire, VMD, USPHS Veterinary Category
Disclaimer: The contents of this submission are interpretive, advisory in nature, and based on the experiences of Victoria Hampshire, VMD during deployment to the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum. These recommendations do not constitute an official PHS or FDA recommendation.
Introduction: Human and animal public health service concerns at an emergency animal shelter are important to the operational success of the facility and involve core support activities without which other more sophisticated medical and veterinary measures cannot be reasonably expected to function. To some degree, the provision of measures intended to reduce risks of public health overlap with other critical functions of the shelter. These critical functions involve sanitation; the provision of potable water, basic sustenance for animals and their caregivers; opportunities for social and environmental enrichment; opportunities for postural adjustment in caged animals and prevention of postural injuries to humans caring for them; reduction of opportunities for disease transmission; protection of physical and mental health (humans and animals); proper ventilation and heating; control of vicious animal attacks; mitigation of biohazards; appropriate training of facility personnel; and promotion of opportunities for bettering future activities of this sort. These functions fall into two major areas: sanitation and protection of human and animal physical and mental health.
Task I. Sanitation:
The function of sanitization is to prevent occupational disease hazards and to maintain an orderly work place that is capable of being maintained in a cleanly manner.
The operational needs of a sanitization program are 1) control of sanitization personnel, command and control of facilities engineers, 2) regular and routine attention to clutter and waste removal, and 3) appropriate receptacles that are user-friendly.
Action Item 1: Request for PHS assistance from the Louisiana state veterinarian
Responsible Party: LSU Incident Commander:
Request assistance from the LSU state veterinarian in the form of a request to Homeland Security to provide the following PHS officers who will report to the LSU incident command:
1. 3 full time PHS veterinarians experienced in biomedical research facility support (20,000 square foot facility or bigger)
2. 2 full time PHS engineers with experience in facility engineering
3. 1 full time PHS medical officer or R.N. to manage the occupational health issues.
Action Item 2: Develop and fund contracts now for dedicated janitors to clean central areas, remove waste, and operate the cage wash. Check contract expiration dates and renew appropriately. Ensure that the PHS veterinary command has project officer status on the contract.
Responsible Party: LSU Incident Commander
o 18 janitors needed daily
o Janitors report to PHS facility veterinary staff
o Equipment needs: Purchase 50 large garbage containers on wheels
o Ensure large dumpster emptied daily
o The contract should ensure that the contractor supplies materials such as sponges, disinfectants
o Pressurized hoses for back loading dock cage wash
Action Item 3: Streamline and Neaten Animal Husbandry
Responsible Party: PHS Veterinarians:
ü Train volunteers in the arena to fill buckets, not individual water bowls
ü Instruct volunteers to bathe dogs outside in the cage wash area, not on dirt floors
ü Provide oversight to contract (or volunteer if contract not possible) sanitization staff on organization and cleaning/restocking of Rubbermaid carts and:
o The regular and routine organization of these carts with the following items:
§ Pooper scooper and garbage bag for scooped bedding
§ Feed and water receptacles
§ Watering can for dispensing water to dangerous dogs through the cage irons
§ Several leashes
ü Centralize feeding stations
ü Work with volunteers to arrange storage of bulk inventory in seating areas upstairs out of the way of traffic freeing the aisles for foot traffic
Things to do in advance:
Acquire stainless steel bucket-type watering receptacles that hang on barn stalls (therefore cannot be tipped over)
ü Acquisition of lixit-type waters for caged animals (learning period necessary but helpful in limiting hauled water)
ü Acquire large garbage carts (big Rubbermaid wheelbarrows)
The barn and arena should each have two large Rubbermaid wheelbarrows
Rubbermaid cleaning cart; about $200.00
Rubbermaid agricultural cart:
o Suggest acquisition of portable tanks of water so that volunteers can go down an aisle with a hose and fill bowls mounted on the side of the barn. These 3 gallon sprayers work nicely for portable water delivery and the long handle is nice for filling the bowls from outside the cage or stall. Northern Tool: http://www2.northerntool.com/product-1/200278824.htm. Price $50.00
TASK II: Protection of physical and mental health (humans and animals)
Operational Needs: Interface
between LSU command, LSU veterinarians, and animal
Responsible Parties: PHS medical
officer, PHS engineers, PHS veterinarians, LSU
Staffing Requirements: PHS vets, engineers, medical officers, volunteer staff, supplemental engineers from LSU or contract
Equipment Needs: Fans, PVC pipes (half-inch, 800 linear feet) for electrical cord coverage, 800 linear feet of Ľ inch for additional plumbing or hose needs), electrical cords (100 20-foot, 20 100-foot), coolers, 2 treatment carts, rabies poles, small tent, medical records, bite records
ü Work with facility engineers to organize, hang/distribute fans for all animal areas
ü Provision/arrangement of PVC housing for electrical cords
ü Establish centrally located private (in terms of location) PHS medical clinic
ü Establish location of food, drink and interface with LSU command on food/drink supplier.
ü Follow state and local requirements for recording and reporting dog and cat bite injuries.
ü Working with LSU veterinarians, establish rest periods for animals
ü Consulting with LSU veterinarians, minimize non-critical treatments to SID
ü Minimize walking of large and/or mildly aggressive dogs if they are already housed in a stall.
ü Create daily supply list for LSU command
ü Develop and follow SOP for handling aggressive dogs
ü Provide clinical care to dogs and cats in the event local and VMAT veterinary help is insufficient.
Table I. Organization of Duties to Protect Public Health at LSU-EAS
Dr. Susan Eddelstone and Dr. Heather Jan
Triage operated as a general practice. Patients were examined on admission, lab work was performed if needed, and a diagnosis and treatment plan were formulated. Veterinarians, assisted by technicians, performed exams and SOAPs * daily on all patients Treatments were altered as needed. Patient rounds were conducted between shift changes. Patients needing further diagnostic testing (radiographs, ultrasound), surgery or intensive care were transferred to LSU-SVM. Veterinarians made a list of needed supplies and drugs and gave to triage coordinator daily. Clean up of the area was performed by both veterinarians and technicians.
* SOAP: subjective, objective, assessment, plan; this is a standard format for veterinary record-keeping
Things that went well:
· A few veterinarians who were in triage for a long period of time organized the unit to be very functional and efficient. Prior to this time, the lack of continuity and lack of a triage coordinator prohibited a consistent operation and often caused confusion for the veterinarians and others involved in transfers, etc.
· Patients were effectively treated and sent back to the arena or barn. Few patients were transferred to LSU once the triage unit was in full operation.
· Veterinary students volunteering or performing duty on a disaster medicine rotation were excellent technicians and often were taught about diseases and treatments by the veterinarians – a great learning experience for the students and exposure to many different veterinarians from around the country.
Things that could be improved:
· Scheduling of DVMs from day 1. Need continuity with veterinarians so that procedures are followed and the triage unit is run smoothly.
· Equipment available sooner. This could be addressed with a mobile veterinary unit.
· Larger supplies of drugs. Drugs, supplies and equipment initially were obtained from LSU-SVM hospital and LSU-SVM pharmacy which was difficult due to the limited supplies. Need to have representatives of drug companies contacted early or another plan such as access to stored supplies and drugs on day 1.
· Organization of supplies delivered to the shelter. Should be by need and not accept anything. Too much to ship out at the end and clutters the triage and hallways.
· Coordinators working 12 hour shifts 24/7 to log in, receive, and stock supplies so there is always a current inventory and supplies are clearly organized and accessible. Many supplies arrived in the middle of the night.
· Establishing standard medical record forms early on. Forms should be clear and simple and self-explanatory to new vets coming in. A protocol for record handling should be developed and posted to avoid records being misplaced or lost. Misplaced records were a problem at the shelter.
· Secretarial support to assist with communications with owners.
· Have student participation a regular event in either a disaster class or as part of the medicine and surgery clinic rotations.
· Better communication with LSU-SVM by having a representative come to the meetings. Transfer of patients usually went well but occasionally was met by resistance due to lack of understanding of funding available for the treatment and how far to go with diagnostics and treatment without owner funding.
· Volunteers working 12 hour shifts to help with bathing and shave-downs.
· Veterinarians had their own sources (representatives of drug companies or animal hospitals around the country) to order supplies and drugs which allowed larger supplies of drugs to be obtained.
· Students were assigned to the triage as part of their animal control rotation. Great learning experience.
Sources of information that helped the unit:
· Veterinarians had equipment and supplies sent from their part of the country.
· Veterinarians brought many ideas that helped organize and run the triage much smoother.
· Idexx supplied a CBC and chemistry panel analyzer which allowed in-house testing and avoided the need for an outside laboratory or transfer to LSU-SVM in many cases.
· Animals that are victims of a disaster may have disaster related illness or injury but will also have pre-disaster problems and problems that develop during their stay at the shelter that need to be diagnosed and treated. Many patients will require chronic treatment and extensive diagnostics. Just treating disaster related illness is not realistic. Relying on owners to pay for the diagnostics and treatment is also not realistic when most only have the clothes on their back or what little funds they may have are needed for their own shelter and care. Most animals that are in the shelter are owned by indigent people who could not afford to evacuate in the first place.
· Investigation into planning for pre-hurricane shelters for animals is needed to prevent the need to set up a shelter after the disaster. This may also increase the number of people who evacuate prior to the disaster because they will have a safe place to leave their pet.
· Emergency shelters should have pre-determined policies that clearly outline the limitations of shelter veterinary services (whatever these may be) and provisions for transfer to referral clinics, including financial arrangements.
· LSU-SVM Ward 1 was overwhelmed at times and personnel to run the ward initially came from the medicine service. Once the medicine service was running again after the storm it became difficult to run both areas. Eventually DVMs and techs from around the country were scheduled to run the area with an LSU DVM overseeing and helping to get things done around the hospital. There was much confusion and lack of communication between the shelter and LSU which could be avoided by faculty understanding their role in the shelter and having a representative attend meetings at the shelter.
· The end of the shelter does not mean the end of patient care at LSU. What is LSU’s role in treating patients after the shelter is closed? LSU faculty need to know their role in keeping patients on their service until they are recovered and able to be sent to an owner or a foster home. This should not fall back on one person to treat and send these animals to their destinations.
What went well in your unit?
Did you apply any innovations?
How did you find out information?
What could be improved?
Dr. Paula Drone
The initial need for security was a perimeter fence around the outdoor covered livestock stalls used to house the big dogs. The dogs became expert diggers in the dirt and sawdust ground. The next problem was theft of dogs. Several nice pets were stolen, probably to fight. Several smaller dogs were stolen as well. At first, little trained security could be obtained because nearly all such groups were deployed to handle the people needs. As the National Guard was rotated thru the LSU campus we were added to their list of assignments. This presence and the perimeter fence as well as an ID system using armbands solved a lot of the problems. The National Guard was then sent on to further deployment and we were able to obtain off duty Sheriff’s deputies.
Dr. David Senior
There was very little advanced planning for the District 6 Emergency Animal Shelter at the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum. This shelter was originally slated to be located at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, LA; however, when the need for a shelter for rescued animals became apparent, the Lamar-Dixon site was chosen for this purpose and a second location was sought for the animals of evacuees. The selection of an LSU site, close to the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and within the city of Baton Rouge, was helpful in many ways because of the assets these entities could bring to bear. The Parker Coliseum itself proved to be ideally suited in many ways with sufficient size to accommodate a large number of animals, massive toilet facilities, ample drinking fountains with potable water, a maintenance crew, janitorial service and some air-conditioned space. LSU provided reliable electrical power, IT know-how, and telecommunications capability. The SVM provided paid veterinary expertise, a well-stocked pharmacy, a ready source of equipment that could be loaned, a website with a web master, paid logistic capability, a paid safety officer, a small phone bank, and paid scheduling and accommodation capability for out-of-town veterinary staff. The city of Baton Rouge provided the intact infrastructure of a city of 400,000 including all the associated businesses plus seemingly endless citizen volunteers.
The Parker Coliseum shelter existed for about 6 weeks and the planning for the shelter was done in several phases as the life of the shelter progressed. In the first days, all responses were in reaction to unanticipated situations and events that were thrust upon the shelter administration without warning or precedent. After a short time SOPs began to be developed and equipment and supplies were estimated and acquired based on a “best guess” of what may be needed. Eventually, plans were established to execute an exit strategy for animals and tear-down/clean up of the facility. Planning was not done by just one person. Several members of the shelter management team were involved in this process depending on their areas of expertise.
Phase 1: Initial setup and operation
When it became apparent that the shelter would need to accommodate a large number of animals, the need for internal and external organization of the shelter along the lines of the military became obvious. On Thursday, September 1, the dean of the SVM was consulted and Dr. Martha Littlefield went over the concept of ICS. The Exxon-Mobil oil spill response team was appealed to for assistance in training. They were unable to help but suggested we work with David Cox, who agreed to attend one of our meetings and provide suggestions. Between David Cox and additional individuals who were familiar with disaster response management, an organizational platform emerged and key individuals were either assigned to or gradually assumed the various positions.
The shelter management was requested to procure all items through the state procurement system. During the weekend of September 3-4, the central Emergency Support Function -11 response organization appeared understandably overwhelmed, at least on the logistics side, so the Parker Coliseum management began to acquire assets by whatever means necessary independently. Among the greatest challenges were the rapid changes in needs as the situation unfolded. Requests for assistance or supplies through an “official” request process could be obsolete and inadequate within days or even hours after they were made due to the rapidly changing nature of the disaster and our inexperience. The shelter management relied heavily on the state veterinarian’s office for policy decisions. A daily meeting routine with the organizational team was established, which was difficult because there was always so much to do and management team members were reluctant to tear themselves away, even for a few minutes.
Internal communication was difficult for at least the first half of the life of the shelter. We needed a reliable warlike-talkie/telephone system for the entire management team. For the first two to three weeks after Katrina passed through, the mobile phone systems in Baton Rouge were overwhelmed and calls did not go through. We had several systems donated but never enough units to go around to all needed people and taking the time to train people in their use proved difficult. The animal holding areas were noisy and some systems did not have a ring volume loud enough to be heard. After 3 weeks of frustration, the HSUS loaned the shelter 17 Nextel phones, preprogrammed according to our management team. Once the staff became trained in their use, internal communication became much easier.
Our lack of experience in both shelter operation and emergency management required an infusion of institutional knowledge. An urgent appeal was made to Dr. Kelli Ferris from North Carolina State University (NCSU), who had been involved in the response to Hurricane Floyd and subsequent development of the State Animal Response Team (SART) in that state. Dr. Ferris brought in a team of veterinarians and technicians and stayed for 10 days. This single action provided tremendous maturity of operation to the management team and put the shelter on the right track.
For the first 10 days from opening operations, local veterinarians and veterinary technicians willingly manned the shelter day and night but eventually this asset became strained because they had to attend to their own now extremely busy and overfull practices. Hundreds of veterinarians and veterinary technicians from throughout North America and sometimes beyond contacted an email address issued by the dean of the SVM and subsequently put up on some websites. All such messages were forwarded to the LVMA office but apparently not processed sufficiently to exploit. A further two sources for bringing in outside veterinary and shelter staff were sought. The faculty of NCSU and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) through Dr. Eric Davis of California were approached to set up such scheduling. Immediate capability came from Dr. Davis who credentials and schedules staff for the Rural Area Veterinary Service (RAVS) for the HSUS so there was a ready made system for scheduling and assignment. Dr. Davis provided the names and time of deployment to the Dean for Students’ office at the SVM and the shelter was notified of the names of the incoming people. The Dean for students arranged for accommodation for the HSUS organized veterinary volunteer staff at the SVM but there was no formal reception and assignment of such people when they arrived. Thus, many people who were supposed to come to the Parker Coliseum shelter were siphoned off to other aspects of the rescue/shelter effort. In addition, schools and colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S. sent teams of veterinary staff and veterinary students to assist in the efforts. Again, scheduling was handled by the Dean for Students’ office at the SVM.
A major mistake was made early in the life of the shelter when local area veterinary technicians who had not undergone pre-exposure rabies vaccination were precluded from working in the shelter. Upon review of the incidence and prevalence of rabies in domestic pets over the last 30 years in the parishes from which the animals in the shelter were evacuated, the risks were very low and we had inadvertently cut ourselves off from an excellent source of skilled support. After the first 10 days of operation when the shelter had reached a mature size, it was estimated that 7 veterinarians and 22 veterinary technicians or shelter technicians were required to staff the shelter. We always had many more veterinarians than technicians but as it turned out, provided everyone rolled up their sleeves and did whatever was necessary regardless of advanced skills, the shelter always had enough manpower.
Phase 2: Maintenance
Continuity in the manpower was a major issue throughout the life of the shelter. With minimal institutional knowledge, it was imperative that certain key individuals be retained for as long as possible. This principle applied from the management team to the cage washers. For some members of the management team, the decision was made to pay them, depending on their financial circumstances. Some were reassigned from LSU and did not need further compensation. Out-of-town veterinary volunteers were encouraged to stay at our shelter for 5 days if at all possible. This enabled them to learn the position, improve our SOPs and pass their know-how to the next person. Some chose to “sample” the disaster experience by spending a day here and day there and a further 2-3 days rescuing animals. Such individuals limited their value to our shelter; however, when they were in the shelter they did good (often menial) work under the direction of others.
Long-deployment volunteers assigned to the shelter from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) played a critical role in developing SOPs for our operations, particularly for animal transport and in the development of a website to support reunification of owners and pets. Veterinarians from the U.S. Public Health Service provided immense support with prolonged deployment (up to 17 days) to our shelter. These individuals were procured by a specific request by the state Incident Command Center. They were late to arrive because the request for their assistance was delayed but once they came they were incredibly valuable. They were assigned to key positions throughout the shelter, sometimes according to their skill sets, and they became progressively more valuable once they became familiar with the needs of the shelter. Volunteers organized by the Church of Scientology also provided continuity. They had 10-day deployment, came with their own supervision structure, tended to work very hard, followed direction, held daily meetings, and transferred institutional knowledge from the out-going person to the incoming one. Dr. Heather Jans, a volunteer veterinarian from Chicago, took the night shift in our mini field hospital for 5 weeks and kept the unit organized. This was priceless.
In attempts to obtain many resources it was common to try two or more alternatives simultaneously hoping that at least one would come through and to go with whichever responded first. At times this led to oversupply and confusion but at least this was better than going without a critical resource at all.
Lack of air-conditioning in the arena was stressful for animals and staff alike. To alleviate the problem, we determined that open wire cages would be preferable to the more closed plastic airline transport kennels and that the multiple small to medium sized fans we had set up would be replaced with very large single fans. Both measures would increase overall air flow and simplify electrical wiring. With the increased air flow we developed a dust problem from the dirt floor in the arena so we decided to lay carpet in the walkways between the rows of kennels. To bring electrical wiring to an acceptable level of safety, plastic conduit was laid to match the grid. To control the difficulty in animal movement when their cages were cleaned, a specific grid with addresses was established. All of these features were incorporated into a plan for the arena, which was gradually implemented. Large fans all blowing in the same direction were placed at intervals to move air through the cat corridor. Ventilation in the barn area was achieved by hanging box fans above every stall.
Most logistics issues were handled by Mr. Rick Ramsey from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Mr. Ramsey brought massive experience in selection, procurement and use of animal holding facilities and equipment. He came with an extensive list of contacts from throughout the U.S. who could locate and ship needed resources. Managing things we specifically ordered was one issue but unloading, sorting and placing in inventory the massive quantities of unsolicited supplies took a lot of manpower that was sorely needed in other locations. Use of the local media to solicit supplies provided tremendous assistance in the early days of the shelter before our logistics were properly set up. However, we soon learned that requests for supplies via a website could result in a seemingly never-ending supply of the requested item. Such is the power of the internet.
Donated food from near and far became an issue because a) it needed to be unloaded, stacked and stored and b) we decided very early on that we should feed a single source low-residue “intestinal” type diet exclusively. However, overfeeding by volunteers remained a problem throughout.
Safety was a major issue because of the very large numbers of unskilled volunteers in the shelter and lack of proper SOPs and control of everyday operation of the shelter at the ground level. Pressing safety issues included animal bites, electric shock, chemical toxin exposure, biological agent exposure, and heat stress/stroke. At the request of the shelter management, a safety officer was appointed by the SVM dean and he instilled a safety-conscious culture in the management team. This proved frustrating for the incumbent because many of the hosts of volunteers who did much of the shelter work were untrained and often did not follow managerial direction. For bite risk we sectioned off aggressive animals to their own zone and only skilled people with pre-exposure rabies vaccination were authorized to service them. All standard reporting and animal holding after bite policies were adhered to. The U.S. PHS set up a first aid tent and a physician was put on-call. Children less than 16 years old were not allowed entry to the shelter. Electrical wiring was routed via PVC conduits where possible. Before proper electrical safety measures were implemented, one dog died from electric cord bite. Bleach was placed in a specific locked storage cabinet and the quaternary ammonium compound used for cage/utensil washing was mixed automatically in-line to limit the potential for exposure to concentrate. We had limited Haz-Mat protective clothing and almost no formal training in this area. After one episode where a truckload of dogs rescued from New Orleans had to be decontaminated, several volunteers were vaccinated for hepatitis based on their potential exposure. Volunteers were encouraged to drink lots of water and to take frequent breaks; some did and some did not. Fire lanes for rapid evacuation were established in the arena.
Operation of the reception area was confusing and a stressful task because of multiple functions. Apart from admission and discharge of animals (establishment of the animal record and veterinary evaluation), this area also served to provide information to the public by phone and also in person, and sign in and organization of volunteers. It also served as a clearing area for people wanting to adopt and foster pets in the facility. Developing a logical system analysis of this area was sorely needed and once we separated people we could not help (I have lost my pets, can you help me find them?) from those we could help, the area became more workable.
Security was a major concern from several aspects. We were concerned that many of our volunteers were women and our activities extended throughout the night. In addition, we had needles and syringes in our veterinary facility; some (very few) scheduled drugs in a lock box in the field hospital; and donated cash in a lock box in the Command Center.
On September 11, when the flow of animals to distant shelters through the Lamar Dixon facility proved inadequate to handle the rate of arrival of animals extracted from New Orleans by rescuers, that facility briefly curtailed accessions and rescuers with dogs off-loaded animals at the Parker shelter, against the wishes of the shelter management. The Parker shelter was not properly prepared (training and equipment) for decontamination of rescued animals, just for owned animals.
For animals we had concerns regarding theft and escape. Early in the life of the shelter, several “pit bull” dogs were taken from the shelter and several others were spirited out, one being an inside job where the computer records were tampered with.
To address security issues a cyclone wire security fence (funded by donations) was set up around the barn area to contain escapees and to limit public access. The local police forces were approached. The LSU Campus Police could offer no support, being overwhelmed with other demands on their time. The City of Baton Rouge police force was similarly engaged and the campus was beyond their jurisdiction; however they offered to drive a squad car by the front of the facility a couple of times each night to establish a “presence”. Fortunately, civil disorder was not a problem in Baton Rouge; quite the opposite, with everyone trying to help in any way they could. A National Guard Unit was bivouacked next to the shelter. Their commander was approached and it was agreed that the Guard could patrol the shelter at key entrances and around the perimeter at night. A wrist-band ID system was established.
Phase 3: Exit Strategy
Planning for the exit strategy became an issue almost as soon as the shelter was set up. The options finally adopted were:
1. Contact the owner(s) and have them pick up their pet(s), put them up for adoption, or foster them into a local Baton Rouge home.
2. Conditional adoption* from permanent shelters both local (East Baton Rouge Animal Control Center) and distant.
* The conditions of adoption were established as follows: Permanent shelters must adopt the animals out directly and not pass the animals through to another shelter; if the original owner were to come forward to reclaim their pet prior to January 1, 2006, the adopting owner must relinquish the pet; all shipping back to original owners must be completed prior to January 15, 2006.
The January 1, 2006 deadline to reclaim a pet is at odds with Louisiana law, which vests ownership with the original owner for 3 years. However, it is unrealistic to expect shelters to hold animals for an extended period and it is unlikely that people would have so readily adopted such pets had the prolonged absentee ownership been explained. Further, many pets do not do well in a shelter environment. Parker shelter management originally placed almost all emphasis on protection of the pet for the owner but as time passed, the pendulum swung to making sure we were doing the best thing for the pet. After 6 weeks it was deemed that the pets would be best placed with an owner in a home, any home.
Faced with the initial (fortunately incorrect) prediction that only 30-40% of owners would come back to claim their pets, plans were developed to identify distant shelters to handle excess left-behind animals and to establish animal transport capability. Teams working remote from the shelter (Gainesville, FL, and Baton Rouge) scoured the internet and developed a list of three prominent shelters from each of the largest three cities in each state in the U.S. This list of approximately 400 shelters was screened by two local certified animal control officers and an email request for assistance in placing animals was sent to those shelters making the cut. A dedicated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org was used. Responding shelters were then screened by ASPCA staff for integrity and capacity to handle animals. Contracts were developed with sufficient shelters to handle the unclaimed animals.
The response to calls to the owners was dramatically successful because most had given us cell phone numbers and regardless of their current location, they were able to discuss the disposition of the pet they had left at Parker. Most arranged to have their pet picked up on or around the deadline of September 30, 2005.
Arranging transportation for the 120+ animals that were transported to distant shelters proved challenging because USDA licensed and approved animal transport units were at a premium.
A website www.lsueas.com was established and supported by IFAW to help owners find pets that Parker had transported to a distant shelter. The website included the name, address, and telephone number of the original owner, and the name, breed, and sex of the pet along with a photograph. In addition, the site listed the new location of the transported pet and contact information for the distant shelter. This website was linked on the front page of Petfinders.com and the LSU SVM website.
Funding from the ASPCA supported initial transportation of pets to distant shelters and subsequent reunification costs when the original owners came forward to claim their pets. An employee of the Parker shelter was assigned to facilitate and arrange all aspects of reunification up until January 15, 2006. Temporary offices were established to support these functions at the SVM and in private homes through this date. Loaned mobile phones were used throughout this final period to facilitate communication.
Shutdown of the physical plant of the shelter on October 16 involved return of all loaned equipment to companies and entities; cataloguing and arranging for disposition of all purchased equipment and supplies; and general tear-down and clean up of the Parker Coliseum. Many items were placed in “ready storage” in case of future events. Flea control in the facility had been poor and a massive infestation of the facility began to emerge once animals were removed, particularly in the barn area.
An “after-action” meeting was held on October 21, 2005, and the website (www.LSUEmergencyAnimalShelter)catalogues the proceedings of this meeting.
by the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine
In a December 2005 Newsletter Article entitled “Out of State Licensees/Executive Orders/History of Events,” the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine (LBVM) details a chronological order of events surrounding the Board’s efforts in the aftermath of the natural disasters, Hurricanes Katrina (August 29, 2005) and Rita (September 24, 2005). The article describes the events that occurred of which the LBVM has actual knowledge. It has been truthfully stated that these two (2) natural disasters, occurring only weeks apart, together created a precedent previously unknown to Louisiana and the United States.
The article describes the procedures which were in effect and required by law at the time of the disasters. As always, laws are tested through application and subject to change as a result of lessons learned during the continued quest for responsive excellence. It is for this reason that current laws are under review and potentially subject to revision in the future. Accordingly, the procedures described in the Newsletter Article may not be applicable in the future depending on the content of the laws in effect at the time another disaster may occur.
The article in its entirety follows:
Out of State Licensees/Executive Orders/History of Events
by Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine
This article details a chronological order of events surrounding the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine’s (LBVM) efforts in the aftermath of the natural disasters, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is not intended to be defensive or offensive in nature, but rather an objective history of what occurred. The LBVM’s Newsletter is the primary tool by which it provides information regarding its activities to licensees and other interested parties.
It is an oversimplification to say these natural disasters tragically devastated certain portions of Louisiana and left no area of our state unaffected to some degree. The LBVM would like to thank and compliment all persons and groups who contributed to the overwhelming relief effort. Unfortunately, some very hard lessons have been learned throughout this ordeal which will be noted, but hopefully, never required to be used in the future. While some may be critical of the efforts of certain parties, please keep in mind that it was, and to some degree remains, a monumental task to resurrect order from chaos. The LBVM and its members were, and continue to be, legally bound by oath of office and the law to enforce the Veterinary Practice Act and its rules. The LBVM does not have the legal authority to suspend, or ignore, the law even in a time a natural disaster.
It also may be very tempting for people to “Monday morning quarterback;”
however, unless a person was actually involved in the mechanics of obtaining an executive order suspending the license requirement of the law, AND fully understands the complex issues which arose, second guessing and unfounded criticisms are really a waste of energy and time. Hopefully, any incidents of this counterproductive activity will be minimal.
The items listed below are those that the LBVM has actual knowledge of regarding the events which occurred
On August 26, 2005, Governor Blanco signed Proclamation 48 KBB 2005 in anticipation of impending Hurricane Katrina. Proclamation 48 KBB 2005 addressed a state of emergency, but did not suspend the laws and rules governing state regulatory boards.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Greater New Orleans and surrounding areas causing massive devastation. The LBVM office and government offices were closed by order of the Governor through Tuesday, August 30, 2005. The LBVM office resumed business on Wednesday, August 31, 2005.
On Thursday, September 1, 2005, at approximately noon, the LBVM office was closed by order of the police due to a suspected riot at the Baton Rouge River Cent Complex. The LBVM employees were escorted to their cars by armed security.
On Friday, September 2, 2005, the Governor signed Executive Order KBB 05-26 suspending the laws for “medical professionals” allowing out of state medical professionals to assist with the relief effort.
The LBVM office remained closed due to the riot threat through Monday, September 5, 2005, which was Labor Day. On Tuesday, September 6, 2005, the offices, including LBVM, in the area near the Baton Rouge River City Complex were allowed open by the police. The LBVM learned of EO KBB 05-26 and took immediate steps to confirm with the Governor whether or not out of state “veterinarians” were included in the term “medical professionals.” LBVM was advised in writing by the Governor’s office on Wednesday, September 7, 2005, that veterinarians were not included in EO KBB 05-26.
The LBVM took immediate steps to contact the State veterinarian regarding this issue. The State veterinarian was included in Incident Command System and coordinating the relief efforts with FEMA in Baton Rouge. The LBVM learned that the State veterinarian’s office was under the impression that EO KBB 05-26 covered veterinarians.
On September 8, 2005, the Board of Veterinary Medicine, along with the State veterinarian, began coordinating efforts to request the Governor to issue an executive order suspending the legal requirement for out of state veterinarians to contribute to the relief effort without the need for a Louisiana license to practice. The LBVM deferred to the State veterinarian on the need for out of state veterinarians since that office was coordinating the relief efforts at Command Incident System.
On Friday, September 9, 2005, the LBVM submitted a proposed executive order to the Governor through her executive counsel addressing the issue. On Monday, September 12, 2005, the Governor signed Executive Order KBB 05-35 (effective September 9 -September 25, 2005) lawfully accomplishing this objective. EO KBB 05-35 was officially posted for notice on the Governor’s website the evening of September 12, 2005.
On September 13, 2005, the LBVM implemented EO KBB 05-35, and the Registration Application and informational documentation were posted on the LBVM’s website for access and registration. In addition, the LBVM submitted the pertinent information to interested parties by email/fax and requested the State veterinarian to submit any listing or information regarding out of state veterinarians desiring to register the LBVM and participate in the relief effort. (The Registration Application and informational documentation were previously prepared by the LBVM in anticipation of the Governor executing the proposed executive order.)
On Monday, September 19, 2005, the LBVM emailed Deputy Executive Counsel Watson inquiring as to the Governor’s protocol for renewal of the Executive Order EO KBB 05-35 beyond its termination date of September 25, 2005, if necessary. The LBVM again deferred to the State veterinarian regarding the need for renewal at ground zero of the relief effort.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2005, Deputy Executive Counsel Watson emailed the LBVM with notice that the current executive order would not automatically renew and that a new request from the LBVM and State veterinarian would be required. Deputy Executive Counsel Watson’s email was immediately forwarded by the LBVM to the State veterinarian with the request to confirm the need for renewal to the Governor’s executive counsel for consideration by the Governor prior to the expiration of EO KBB 05-35 on September 25, 2005. The State veterinarian confirmed the need for the extension of the executive order for three (3) additional weeks by email on September 20, 2005. The matter was properly before the Governor for consideration well before the September 25 termination date of the current executive order.
On Thursday, September 22, 2005, Governor Blanco signed EO KBB 05-43 extending the terms and effect of EO KBB 05-35 through October 25, 2005. There was no gap in the substantive application of the executive orders regarding out of state veterinarians who met the qualifications and properly registered with the LBVM.
On Saturday, September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita hit the southwest coast of Louisiana causing massive devastation to the coastal parishes. The LBVM office was closed from Friday, September 23, 2005 through Sunday, September 25, 2005 due to impending Hurricane Rita. The information memo and registration application were officially updated on the LBVM’s website on Monday, September 26, 2005.
On September 30, 2005, approximately 125 out of state veterinarians had registered with the LBVM pursuant to the executive orders. Some were believed to be operating through assignments from the State veterinarian and FEMA, and others at the relief effort at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Emergency Animal Shelter at the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge.
On September 30, 2005, LSU-Sum’s website posted notice that the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum Emergency Animal Shelter will no longer accept animals after September 30, 2005, and will close operations on October 15, 2005. LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum
Emergency Animal Shelter was a shelter for owned pets that were brought there by the owners or by veterinarians evacuating pets. The shelter at Lamar-Dixon in Gonzales, Louisiana was a shelter for rescued animals and is believed to have ceased operations on a timeline similar to the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum Emergency Animal Shelter.
EO KBB 05-43 terminated automatically at midnight on October 25, 2005. The LBVM maintained communication with the Governor, through her Deputy Executive Counsel, and the State veterinarian’s office regarding the need for renewal prior to the effective time of the termination. The LBVM again deferred to the State veterinarian regarding the need for renewal at ground zero of the relief effort. It was determined that there was no need to renew the executive order past the deadline based on current information. Both the LSU AgCenter’s Parker Coliseum Emergency Animal Shelter and the Lamar-Dixon shelter were closed prior to the October 25, 2005 deadline.
Accordingly, on October 25, 2005, the LBVM posted notice on its website that EO KBB 05-43 would terminate at midnight. It also mailed/emailed the notice to all out of state veterinarians who registered with the LBVM and all interested parties regarding the effect and time of the termination.
It is the LBVM’s understanding that subsequent to the termination of EO
KBB 05-43 there are shelters which are still operating through private and/or LVMA efforts. Such shelters are obviously legally operating if the provisions of the law and LBVM’s rules regarding the requirements for maintaining a Louisiana veterinary license and the practice of veterinary medicine are being followed. Unfortunately, the LBVM has received limited information regarding operations which may exist in violation of the law and LBVM’s rules. Every effort has been made to cease these illegal operations which to date has been largely successful. The LBVM will continue to discharge its duty regarding this issue and will follow up on all complaints received regarding any alleged illegal activity.
It is also the LBVM’s understanding that assistance from Louisiana licensed veterinarians may be needed in the closing relief efforts. As you may be aware, many Louisiana licensed veterinarians were displaced by the hurricanes and may be in need of temporary (or permanent) employment or participation in work relief. If interested, the appropriate entities to contact are the LA Veterinary Medical Association, or the LA State veterinarian’s office for more information.
In closing, the LBVM wishes to again thank everyone (veterinarians, support staff, private individuals, associations, educational institutions, and governmental entities and officials, as well as animal humane groups and concerned persons in general) that assisted in the relief efforts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Thank you for your love and concern for the animals affected by these disasters.
Dr. David Senior
Things that went well.
The veterinary staff felt very involved and very much part of a team. Most of the time we were able to overlap staff so one taught the next and institutional knowledge was passed on. This is vital.
Early on before outside veterinary staff could arrive the local people pulled the full weight of the manpower needs. They did this at an amazing level.
What should be avoided:
Don’t turn away veterinary staff because they have not had pre-exposure rabies vaccination.
What could be improved?
Manpower requirements: Initially the needs were not clear to me. We did not know how big it was to get. More thought and better predictions early on may have made life a bit more comfortable. It is better to be wrong on the high side.
Scheduling: I was unable to handle the hundreds of emails coming in daily from vets and techs offering service and assistance. Scheduling these must be done remote from the shelter and maybe even remote from the disaster. This could be done on a website that automatically develops a spreadsheet of available veterinarians. HSUS has such a program already for their RAVS program and this was used to some extent. Local scheduling to the various units was a full time job.
Assignment: Vets and techs were side-tracked to other units (sampling). There must be a central reception station for all professional staff and from there they will be assigned to various locations for set periods of time. People coming in must be informed of this before they come.
Accommodation for volunteers: This was set up at the vet school after a bit and this needs to be addressed ahead of time or at least ASAP after the disaster. People should be assigned to develop these systems.
Communication: The lack of good communication equipment to allow easy local and offsite communication was a constant problem for me. We needed a full complement of functioning phones or walkie-talkies to allow communication between the various areas of the shelter. We needed a full time communications person producing easy-to-read lists of all relevant phone numbers. The phone numbers changed a lot and it was hard to keep up. Early on when the cell phones were not working this was really a bad situation. Satellite phones may be useful here.
Information: The state phone numbers in the central Incident Command Post were virtually non-functional through much of the first 4 weeks. Contacting Dr. Martha Littlefield (the State Veterinarian) by cell phone was about the only way to get answers regarding policy. Better communications systems for key personnel must be improved. Contacting Lamar-Dixon (the emergency shelter for non-owned animals) and knowing who to talk to was hard. Attendance at the daily State response meetings was difficult because of traffic. Maybe a land-line teleconference system would have helped so we would not have had to leave the shelter.
Command Center: This was too crowded with too many functions carried out there. The building lent itself to our task in many special ways but the amount of available space for office/meeting/IT/telephone answering/eating, etc. was not ideal. Consideration should be made for the various functions that will have to be performed when choosing the location of an animal shelter pro-actively.
We went through several iterations of the Volunteer Coordinator. Katrina hit on Monday, but the animals did not really begin pouring in until about Thursday. It was at this point that people began to organize themselves. We had two people, a couple who took the reigns and really put forth a great deal of effort at getting the preliminary system organized. They set up the intake and pet release system. Various other people helped with this as well. However, it was not until Monday of Labor Day that we really began to get organized.
That first weekend, which happened to be Labor Day, we were swarmed with volunteers. We had more volunteers than we knew what to do with. We were still in the developmental stages of setting the place up and even having a command chain. It was not until that Monday that we were able to actually have some sort of organizational chart, albeit crude. However, we knew that after that weekend we were going to be significantly short handed due to people going back to work or trying to get their lives back together. But for that weekend, we had more help than we needed. It was at this point that we realized that children had to be supervised and that there were many people who came “shopping” and/or sight-seeing. Because of all of this, we felt it was essential that we had a consistent, trained volunteer coordinator.
At this point, we had two people in that role. They both did the best that they could, but neither one of them were able to devote the entire time to it. One was in the process of buying a house and was gone for much of the time. After some time, she stated that she was unable to continue in that role. The other person was able to devote a lot of time to the assignment for the first three weeks, but she, too, had to leave as she was trying to set her home and work back up in Metairie. We were able to recruit a very qualified person from USPHS. However, even she was unable to handle the entire task. She was also named safety supervisor.
This changing of volunteer coordinators really was a hindrance in the long run. What was absolutely essential was consistency. By changing the people in this role, we were unable to maintain this consistency. Added to it was the fact that they were really doing the work of 3 or 4 people at the same time. It was expected that the volunteer coordinator do the following:
ť Recruit and call all volunteers
ť Train all incoming volunteers in the safety aspect
ť Give all volunteers tours of the facility
ť Give all volunteers necessary safety information
ť Answer any questions from volunteers as well as the information desk, incoming desk, releasing desk
ť Any other items related to the front desk.
Because volunteers were not consistent, it was difficult to recruit them, keep them, train them and in general depend on them. Many examples exist in which a volunteer was given a specific task and a few minutes later he or she was no longer there. Most people who showed up wanted to work with the animals only. However, we were truly blessed to be able to have enough volunteers to handle the main areas, namely the animal husbandry.
Dr. David Senior
MAJOR SUPPORT FROM PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
United States Public Health Service (USPHS)
Long-term staff support in key managerial positions
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
1. Shipping expertise
United States National Guard
1. Security for the perimeter of the shelter
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF)
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Extremely rapid early assessment and major funding in support of the
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
1. Rapid early assessment
American Kennel Council (AKC)
shelter began with no supplies, no inventory and no staff. The supplies
We were able to meet the
needs of the facility within a reasonable timeframe and with
What could be improved?
Other do’s and dont’s
· Do not accept small item loans from multiple individuals that have to be returned at a later date – kennels, caging, fans, etc. This became a logistic nightmare
· Control unsolicited donations of supplies and equipment. All donations should be handled by the procurement officer
· In lieu of requests to donate supplies, ask for monetary contributions
· Determine the types of supplies, caging, feed, etc. required by the facility and concentrate on obtaining those in the form of donations or purchase during the early stages of the shelter or ideally before the shelter must open
Did you apply any innovations?
· Without established guidelines, most things we did could be considered innovations, from laying carpet on the floors of the coliseum to establishing caging rows to using color coded cage cards to constructing raised kennels for caging fractious animals to bringing in c-cans for supply storage, etc.
How / where did you find out information that helped the unit’s operation?
Dr. Becky Adcock
We were totally unprepared for the quantity of donations and for the enormous expenses associated with operating a shelter of this magnitude, yet we were able to collect contributions totaling more than $250,000 and financially support the operation of this facility through the end of 2005, with a projected surplus.
In week 1, we made arrangements with Louisiana State University (LSU) to set up a University operating expense account at the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and received permission from the university to use an LSU LaCarte VISA card to pay for expenses. We also set up a charge account at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine pharmacy to purchase drugs and vaccines.
In week 2, we received permission from the Walter J. Ernst Foundation (WJE) at the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) to set up a shelter operating checking account using the Foundation’s 501-C-3 charitable status. Using $80,000 from WJE and cash contributions from the community, we set up a checking account. We subsequently collected more than $75,000 from individual contributors.
In week 3, we created payroll information sheets and began paying key personnel working full time in the shelter.
We required the financial support and cooperation of the LVMA, LSU, LSU SVM, and LSU Ag Center to make this operation function successfully.
Using a charitable entity to use for setting up our account was very helpful, but slowed the process. It also made us more aware of having to justify expenses and assuring that charitable contributions were used as intended by the donor.
We should have better organized our donation areas at reception:
We should have better managed our major equipment purchases and donations. When the shelter closed, we were left with office and communications equipment for which a donor could not be identified.