California creates statewide veterinary disaster team

A new program will help train, coordinate and equip rescue workers across California to help animals during disasters.

The California Veterinary Emergency Team, administered by the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is due to be released by the veterinary school, according to an announcement dated 2nd. The state plans to provide the team with $ 3 million annually.

The announcement notes that the program will be modeled on the UC-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which also prepares responders to mobilize quickly during an emergency.

Dr. Michael Ziccardi, director of the California Veterinary Emergency Team and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and executive director of the university’s One Health Institute, said the continuing education will complement existing programs from state agencies, county departments, and local animal emergency task forces, veterinary associations, and existing veterinary emergency teams. He anticipates the emergency team could have some skills this year, and he expects it will evolve through 2022.

Work planned immediately after the announcement included meetings between UC Davis team members and government officials overseeing response to animal disasters: the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Governor’s Emergency Services Department. Dr. Ziccardi hopes to get a feel for where authorities believe the UC-Davis-led team will fit into the existing disaster relief structure.

He and other team leaders plan to take a listening tour across the state to hear from local animal helpers about their challenges and needs, and to understand how the new team can fit into their emergency work. The team leaders also plan to procure a supply of equipment that the local emergency services lack.

The team should be part of a collective of government, non-government and university aides who can be deployed across the state within hours of being notified, said Dr. Ziccardi.

The August 2 announcement indicated that the existing California Animal Welfare Emergency System within the California Department of Food and Agriculture manages the evacuation and care of animals in emergencies and works with community animal welfare teams and nonprofits.

State Senator Steve Glazer, whose district is east of San Francisco, said in the UC-Davis announcement that the recent wildfires had overwhelmed the state’s ability to evacuate and care for pets and livestock, noting California authorities Texas had asked to send emergency teams twice in five years.

“This not only endangers animals, but also increases the risk for residents and first aiders if people stay behind fire lines because they fear that their animals will not be looked after,” he said. “We need this new team to train, coordinate and lead hundreds of volunteers ready to help.”

Senator Glazer enacted a law to create the emergency team, and the language from that law was included in the state budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this summer, the announcement said. The senator said the goal was to assemble a team ready to provide “a mobile command center, a clinic if needed, and the vets, equipment and medicine to get the job done” anywhere in the state react.