July 15, 2001

 

 VMAT helps to assess veterinary needs in Texas

Posted July 1, 2001 

At press time in June, flooding caused by tropical storm Allison had forced an estimated 20,000 Houston-area residents out of their homes. According to the Associated Press, three feet of rain contributed to nearly $1 billion in damage in Houston, where water had risen out of two bayous on the city's residential east side. A spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La, said the Louisiana damage was at "$15 million and counting." The storm has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in Texas and Louisiana.

President George W. Bush issued a Federal Disaster Declaration on June 9, and federal disaster teams were converging on the area.

Also included in the efforts has been Dr. John Anderson, AVMA VMAT-4 team leader, and Dr. Barry Kellogg, AVMA VMAT-1 team leader. The two were serving on the US Public Health Service's Management Support Team and assessing the damage in Houston.

The assessment was that local organizations are well-prepared and animal issues are minimal, as most veterinary facilities were able to provide veterinary services in the disaster area. Some hospitals suffered mild to moderate damage, but all hospitals were able to provide at least partial services. The Houston Zoo lost one antelope and two chickens. Two fawns and two horses were rescued.

Lost companion animals were presenting the biggest challenge, as area shelters accepted growing numbers of lost pets. The Houston SPCA had received 90 animals as a result of the flood, and had mobilized five animal rescue teams to the field. According to the Humane Society of United States, the Houston Humane Society had received 70 animals, and was also mobilizing rescue teams to the field. The HSUS was helping to coordinate delivery of pet food and supplies to the Houston SPCA.

In Louisiana, the American Humane Association was sending response teams to monitor the situation. The Emergency Animal Rescue Service had already rescued 12 goats stranded in floodwaters. They were taken to local veterinary hospitals for treatment and were doing well.

The floodwaters were not as forgiving to the Texas Medical Center, which encompasses Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

At Baylor College of Medicine, some 30,000 animals, primarily specially bred mice, were trapped and submerged. The mice were used to test experimental drugs for the discovery of new treatments for cancer and other ailments ranging from organ failure and memory loss to immunology and autism.

According to the Houston Chronicle, some students lost years' worth of doctoral work and several animals, and millions of dollars in equipment, data, and cell cultures utilized for federally funded research was destroyed.

The University of Texas Medical School at Houston estimates it lost 2,500 laboratory animals as well.