In April, the AVMA established contact with the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians to explore constructive methods for providing assistance to the war-ravaged Baghdad Zoo, its veterinarians, and its remaining animals.
U.S. Army Veterinary Service personnel are currently serving in Iraq as protectors of human and animal health. In addition to taking the lead in food safety inspection, caring for military working dogs, and assisting other types of animals, they work directly with the coalition to protect and improve animal health, human health, and food safety infrastructures. Veterinarians recently provided similar services in Afghanistan and, in 1991, in Kuwait.
"As Americans and as veterinarians, we realize that war has many, many faces of devastation," said Dr. James Brandt, Executive Board chair. "Recent stories describing the dreadful condition at the Baghdad Zoo and the plight of its animals prompted the AVMA to explore how veterinarians stateside can provide support and assistance to their colleagues facing the challenges of rebuilding after Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Coalition forces and the Kuwaiti government sent a one-month supply of feed to address the immediate crisis in caring for remaining animals in the Baghdad Zoo.
"It appears that the immediate crisis has been addressed," Dr. Brandt said in April. "We have been in contact with Col. Scott Severin, deputy director, Department of Defense Veterinary Service Activity. Col. Severin informed us that there are currently six veterinarians in the civil affairs units in the region and that he will inform us if there is an identified need for veterinary drugs or equipment."
Meanwhile, the World Society for the Protection of Animals and its member society, the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, announced April 30 they were awaiting clearance to enter Iraq. If cleared, the team will travel under a U.S. military escort to assess the situation facing animals in Iraq as a whole and Baghdad itself. Once it has made the assessment, the WSPA plans to mobilize and coordinate animal welfare organizations from around the world in a relief effort to help the Iraqi animal victims.