The AVMA's Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) serve as first responders to ensure high-quality care of animals during disasters and emergencies. The dedicated volunteers who work with the VMAT program help ensure that pets, livestock, zoo animals and wildlife all receive the care they need during times of crisis.
The VMAT program serves three primary functions when its help is requested by state authorities:
Early Assessment Volunteer Teams
4-6 person teams, self sufficient and available upon request from the appropriate state authority. Deployments are 72 hours not including travel time. Teams will focus on assessing veterinary conditions & infrastructure, and gather verifiable data to enable state deployment of appropriate state resources.
Basic Treatment Volunteer Teams
4-6 person teams, self sufficient and available upon request by the appropriate state authority. Deployments are 5 days not including travel time. Teams provide primary field care to augment overwhelmed local capabilities, which could include establishment of a base-of-operations as a field staging area for state-based veterinary triage and veterinary medical care of displaced animals.
Provide emergency-related education and training to state veterinary associations, professionals and colleges. Topics for 1-2 day training lectures and courses include: animal decontamination, disaster veterinary medicine and triage, hazmat awareness for veterinarians, critical incident stress management, leadership, risk communication, occupational safety. Training programs to start as a lecture format, developing into field exercises later.
The AVMA created the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team program after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 1993 the AVMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing the VMAT program as a public-private partnership to assist in providing veterinary emergency preparedness and response. The AVMA and federal government worked together in a public-private partnership for disaster response needs from 1993-2007, with teams housed by the AVMA responding as federal employees.
In 2008, changes in federal government policy led to the creation of two separate and complementary Veterinary Disaster Response Team programs: the federal government's National Veterinary Response Team and the AVMA's Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) program. The AVMA Executive Board approved a new state-focused program, and the AVMF Board of Directors authorized a grant to fund it. The new VMAT program allows for more flexibility and seeks to fill in gaps at the state level.
History of AVMA Emergency Preparedness and Response programs
AVMA VMAT Program Fact Sheet
VMAT Program FAQs
AVMA VMAT FAQ for States
2014 American Veterinary Medical Association