LSU Emergency Animal Shelter

Disaster Response Manual

Preparation Primer

Who Is in Charge?

What is the role of the State Veterinary Medical Association?
What is the role of the State Animal Response Teams (SART)?
What is the role of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)?
    Disaster preparedness and response efforts of the AVMA
What is the role of VMAT?

What is the role of the Public Health Service?
   What are the PHS officers and what are they trained to do?
   How are they activated to help?
   A single medical officer who is a registered nurse
   Two engineers

What is the role of the State Veterinary Medical Association?

 The Model Veterinary Service and Animal Care Annex for State Emergency Operations Plans (from the AVMA Disaster Preparedness and Response Guide ( states:

The (state) Veterinary Medical Association is the primary organization for coordinating voluntary veterinary services needed in emergencies.  There is a list of State Veterinary Medical Associations under Additional Documents.

The Plan further suggests that:

The Disaster Medicine Committee consists of members representing the state veterinary medical association, state veterinarian’s office, College of Veterinary Medicine, state veterinary technicians association, state Department of Wildlife, state animal control association, humane organizations, and veterinarians representing large animals, small animals, and zoological animals.

The Disaster Medicine Committee coordinates veterinary involvement with the State Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the state Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Wildlife. Memoranda of Understanding will be developed between the state Emergency Management Agency and transportation companies.

What is the role of the State Animal Response Teams (SART)?

State Animal Response Teams (SART) are interagency state organizations dedicated to preparing, planning, responding, and recovering during animal emergencies in the United States.  SART is a public-private partnership, joining government agencies with the private concerns around the common goal of animal issues during disasters.  SART programs train participants to facilitate a safe, environmentally sound and efficient response to animal emergencies on the local, county, state and federal level.  The teams are organized under the auspices of state and local emergency management utilizing the principles of the Incident Command System (ICS).

As of this writing, SART has been organized in 12 states and is under development in at least 10 others.  See the SART website for current information (see

What is the role of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)?

The following information is an excerpt from Section 3 of the AVMA Disaster Preparedness and Response Guide (

Disaster preparedness and response efforts of the AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) disaster preparedness and response efforts resulted from an agreement between the AVMA and the Office of Emergency Preparedness of the U.S. Public Health Service.  With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 1993, veterinary services became incorporated into the Federal Response Plan, now known as the National Response Plan, for disaster relief as part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).  NDMS was developed to provide supplemental medical care to victims of catastrophic disasters in the event state and local resources are overwhelmed and federal assistance is required. Such federal recognition of the need for animal care provided the framework for veterinary health professionals to be organized into Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) which could respond to the needs of animals during a disaster in the same way that Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) provide medical aid to human casualties of disasters.

The completion, in August 1994, of a Memorandum of Understanding between the AVMA and the United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) made it possible for the VMAT to assist the USDA in the control, treatment, and eradication of animal disease outbreaks.  Such a response would occur under the direction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 1994 MOU was approved for a 5-year extension in June 1999, and updated in 2005.

On January 26, 1998, the AVMA and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) signed a statement of understanding (SOU) with the American National Red Cross (ARC).  In the SOU, the American Red Cross recognizes the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation as the only national organizations representing the entire profession of licensed veterinarians solely responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, health and well-being of all animals, including during periods designated as disaster relief. During disasters, Red Cross volunteers will refer all animal medical questions and needs to veterinarians affiliated with the national, state, county, or local veterinary medical associations.

What is the role of VMAT?

The following information is from Section 3 of the AVMA Disaster Preparedness and Response Guide (


It is the mission of the Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams to assist the local veterinary community with the care of animals and to provide veterinary oversight and advice concerning animal related issues and public health during a disaster or following a request from an appropriate agency. 

The VMAT is designed for response to large-scale disasters but has adequate flexibility to permit response to disasters of limited scope.  Though the initial response to disasters occurs at the local level, resources within a disaster area may be inadequate to fully cope with the effects of a major disaster, or local resources may need time to recover before resuming complete responsibility. The VMAT provides assistance during those times when the local veterinary community is overwhelmed.

The VMAT are advanced trained teams of veterinarians from areas including private/public practice, toxicology, pathology, wildlife/exotic/aquatic medicine, surgery, emergency and critical care and various other fields, veterinary technicians, laboratorians, epidemiologists, wildlife experts, and other medical and academic professionals, and support personnel who function under the Incident Command System. They provide nationwide coverage during times of disaster and can be deployed to any state or United States territory. VMAT team members triage and stabilize patients at a disaster site and provide austere veterinary medical care. These teams are mobile units that can deploy within 24-48 hours. The members carry a 3-day supply of food, water, personal living necessities, and medical supplies and equipment, if needed.  Each team is capable of establishing a veterinary field hospital and can provide any other veterinary services needed to support a complete disaster relief effort.

Response Capabilities

VMAT responsibilities during disasters include:

1. Liaison (1-2 members) in State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) pre- or post-disaster

2. Assessment of the animal care giving infrastructure

3. Veterinary diagnosis, triage, treatment and stabilization

4. Establishment of veterinary field hospitals

5. Mobilization of veterinary strike teams

6. Food and water safety

7. Multi-hazard assessment, risk reduction and response

8. Biological and chemical exposure surveillance

9. Animal decontamination

10. Medical supervision/treatment of response/service animals

11. Augmentation or surge capacity for an integrated medical response

12. Supervision of animal care and production facilities

13. Training assistance for local and state assets assigned to animal issues in disasters

14. Provision of supplemental veterinary care for overwhelmed local veterinarians

15. Epizootiology / Epidemiology

            a. Animal disease surveillance

            b. Zoonotic disease surveillance and public health assessment

16. Humane euthanasia or supervision thereof

17. Animal mortality management

18. Animal capture, restraint and transport

The VMAT will supplement the relief efforts already underway by local veterinarians and

emergency responders.  The goal is a cooperative animal relief effort during times of disaster between the VMAT, state and local officials, the state veterinarian, the local veterinary community, state and local veterinary medical associations, emergency management personnel, humane groups, the American Red Cross, and search and rescue groups.  The desired result is for all of the entities involved in disaster response to work together cooperatively and efficiently for human and animal well-being.

What is the role of the Public Health Service?

Victoria Hampshire VMD, USPHS Veterinary Category

What are the PHS officers and what are they trained to do?

The Public Health Service is a corps of health professionals who serve as uniformed officers under the Surgeon General within the Department of Health and Human Services.  DHHS’ agencies include the National Institutes of Health, Indian Health Service, US Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, and the United States Department of Agriculture.  As such, the PHS veterinarian may routinely manage a wide variety of programs.  Examples include but are not limited to: clinical and research duties in a large biomedical research facility, oversight and management of a surveillance program, or a health quality research program, oversight of a portfolio of drugs, devices, or biologics and their associated testing for eventual use in humans or animals.  PHS officers are normally only deployed from their duty stations during times of request, usually in national disasters.  When PHS officers are deployed from their regular duty stations, the program must cover their regular duties at home.

PHS health professionals are required to be deployment-ready for disasters and they are also required to be clinically competent.  Among the qualifications they must meet is annual re-certification of such skills as clinical competency, basic fitness testing, basic life support, and public health training during for disaster relief.  They must also demonstrate a willingness to go on intermittent 2-week deployments.

This cadre of experience, training, willingness, and regular certification makes the PHS veterinarian a versatile partner in command and control operations.  This group of professionals was ready to fill almost any role at the shelter.  The unique relationship the PHS enjoyed with other health professional categories within the PHS also enabled them to draw on other necessary resources such as medical, nursing, and mental health and to recognize where a liaison with these other professional categories would augment the LSU command. 

How are they activated to help?

Under the National Response Plan, the state may request PHS assistance/deployment from the department of Homeland Security.  The PHS deployment is made according to task-specifics (CERTS) that are identified by incident command.  When a PHS officer volunteers for deployment, the supervisor, who may be a civilian or PHS government employee, must agree to the deployment and must certify that they will cover the officer’s regular duties themselves, or with other organizational members.

It is suggested that incident command continue to view the PHS role as co-managers as well as workers in whatever capacity is most necessary.  Tasks should identify operational areas such as engineering, veterinary facility management (husbandry, cage wash, quarantine and isolation), occupational risk assessment, and occupational injury. 

I recommend the following officers should be requested at the initiation of a response:

Veterinarians.  (Specify clinical and facility management experience).  We recommend between 2 and 4 full-time clinical veterinarians with a biomedical research facility support background.  It is recommended that the LSU leadership utilize these PHS veterinarians to assist leadership in managing husbandry and facility operations in the arena, barn, and indoor feline and/or exotic housing.  If future responses do not provide the wealth of clinical veterinarians from the VMAT and LSU as was the case in Katrina, then the PHS veterinarians can also provide clinical care; however, the number should be increased and the request should emphasize the clinical nature of these additional veterinarians because PHS clinical expertise is usually considered a separate career tract than administrative or facility oversight.  

A single medical officer who is a registered nurse.  This professional is responsible for managing the animal bite and injury care and reporting. 

Two engineers. The PHS does have engineers but they were not deployed in the Katrina disaster.  Engineers could have been a great help to LSU and could oversee teams of plumbers and electricians to provide/augment services.  This request should specify that you require an engineer with facility services experience because there are engineers who concentrate almost exclusively on the manufacturing of medical devices. 


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