The AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams have earned the Public Service Award from the Animal Transport Association, a Houston-based organization dedicated to the safe and humane transport of animals worldwide. The public service award honors a person or group that has served in the public's interest to save animals or further the health and welfare of animals. The VMATs were recognized for their relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"The AVMA is very proud of the work done by the VMATs," said AVMA President Henry E. Childers. "The recognition of their work by the AATA underscores the all-encompassing nature of disaster response. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that safe animal transport must be planned for and should not be thought of as a given."
Dr. Childers and Christy Whitelaw, a registered veterinary technician who is a member of VMAT-3, traveled to the AATA International Conference in Amsterdam to receive the award in April.
"While the VMATs continue to receive phenomenal acknowledgment and support from the AVMA and (American Veterinary Medical Foundation), we are very honored to receive recognition from another animal-related organization," Whitelaw said.
"I feel that the general mindset of the VMAT members is to aid animals and humans during disasters without expectation of general public notice," Whitelaw continued. "However, receiving awards such as this public service award really helps the team members realize that they do, indeed, make a difference in the lives of others."
Lisa Schoppa, AATA president-elect, said, "It's an honor for us to give this award to such a great organization, in light of all the good that (they) did in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area."
Established by the AVMA and deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the National Response Plan, the VMATs treated thousands of animals injured during the storms. The teams also worked with other agencies to establish field hospitals and assess the damage done to the local veterinary infrastructure.
There are four VMATs, based in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland, and North Carolina. Team members live in various areas of the country, and each team is capable of responding to disasters in any state or U.S. territory once the officials from the affected state initiate the request for assistance. The AVMF funds the VMATs. For more information, visit www.avma.org/disaster.