Vets and pets play key role during disaster response

By Alex Branch

Dog web
 
Among the many lessons from Hurricane Katrina was that the bond between humans and animals cannot be ignored during disaster response.

With no plan by emergency responders to account for household pets during rescues 12 years ago, many families refused to board helicopters, boats or buses without their beloved household pets.

fogelberg
Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD

That’s why this week about two dozen Texas A.M. University veterinarians and veterinarian technicians were deployed outside Houston, and evacuee shelters in Dallas and Fort Worth included carefully crafted plans to care for pets of people who fled Hurricane Harvey.

From preventing disease outbreaks among rescued animals to providing care for wounded household pets and search and rescue dogs, veterinarians today fill important roles in disaster response, said Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor in the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health.

“Research has shown that between 30 to 70 percent of people will not evacuate their homes without their household pets,” Dr. Fogelberg said. “Katrina revealed that the human-animal bond must be taken into account, especially during disasters that are expected to last for an extended time.”

Dr. Fogelberg, a member of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, had advocated for increased involvement of veterinarians during disaster response.

Just like when humans are housed together for long periods in tight quarters, sheltered animals are at high risk for disease outbreaks in shelters, such as influenza. The vaccine and health histories of many of the animals rescued during disasters are unknown, said Dr. Fogelberg, who recently was named the 2017 Public Health Veterinarian of the Year by the American Association of Food Safety and Public Health Veterinarians.

“Some diseases can pass from animals to humans so preventing those post-disaster disease outbreaks is a critical aspect of the public health response,” she said. “There also is a clear mental health benefit for evacuees who have lost their homes and possessions to know that their pets are safe and being properly cared for.”

Some obstacles prevent veterinarians from responding to disasters. For example, veterinarians are licensed to practice only in individual states and there is not a good system in place to allow them to practice temporarily in other states during disasters.

Next month, Dr. Fogelberg will speak at a meeting of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health about the potential to further expand the roles of veterinarians in disaster response.

“There is a concept known as ‘One Health’ recognizing that the health of people is connected to the health of animals,” she said. “Veterinarians will continue to have a growing role in the response to disasters like Hurricane Harvey.”

Recent News

Techstars Demo Day.
  • On Campus
|Dec 1, 2022

Techstars Demo Day brings innovation to the historic stockyards

For the last 13 weeks, the founders of 10 of the world’s most innovative startups have been in Fort Worth perfecting their new physical health technology. They are part of the world’s first physical health accelerator, and now they are ready to show the fruits of their labor. Techstars Demo D...
Dr. Sid O'bryant Award
  • Our People
|Dec 1, 2022

HSC named the winner of the D Magazines 2022 Achievement in Medical Research Award

The extensive research done by Dr. Sid O’Bryant and his team at the Institute of Translational Research has earned the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth the 2022 Medical Research Award by D Magazine. Dr. O’Bryant, the executive director of the ITR and a professor at t...
Dr. John Licciardone
  • Our People
|Nov 30, 2022

Key study results from HSC’s PRECISION Pain Research Registry published in JAMA Network Open

The Journal of the American Medical Association – Network Open has published findings from a recent HSC study about chronic lower back pain, race and the patient-physician relationship. The study revealed that Black patients reported worse outcomes for low back pain intensity and back-related d...
Ram flyer
  • Community
|Nov 23, 2022

Free pop-up medical, vision and dental clinic is just a week away

  The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and Remote Area Medical – RAM® — a nonprofit provider of pop-up clinics that delivers free quality dental, vision and medical care to those in need — are bringing the free health care clinic to Dallas on Dec. 3 and 4....