For over 20 years, the AVMA's Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) have been involved in national animal emergency preparedness and response activities through boots on the ground response during disasters and by providing training to veterinary response organizations.
VMAT was founded in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurrican Andrew which caused significant damage in Florida and inflicted heavy losses on animals and the veterinary infrastructure. In 1993, the AVMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), making VMAT part of the Federal Response Plan (now the National Response Framework) as part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). In 1994, the AVMA entered into an MOU with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making VMAT available to respond in the event of an animal health emergency.
Over the years, VMAT members provided on the ground veterinary support during a number of disasters and emergencies including the Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 and the World Trade Center Attacks in 2001 as well as many other events.
In 2008 the federal law changed, and the public-private partnership was dissolved. This led to the creation of two distinct veterinary response programs: the National Veterinary Response Teams (NVRT), part of NDMS at HHS, and the AVMA's VMAT program. These organizations collaborate, communicate and cooperate with each other on issues related to animal emergency preparedness and response. MOUs between the AVMA and HHS signed in 2008 and 2012 highlight the relationship.
With the change in the federal law, VMAT's program evolved. The current VMAT program focuses on state-level response. AVMA VMAT teams are available to deploy at the request of the state to assist in animal emergency response and deploy within the state's incident command structure. VMAT has three missions: 1) Providing on-the-ground assessment of veterinary infrastructure following a disaster. Reports provided by VMAT volunteers in the field can be utilized by State emergency response officials to direct resources to impacted areas. 2) Augmenting state veterinary response resources to provide veterinary care to animals affected by a disaster. 3) Providing training on a wide range of veterinary disaster response topics to veterinary response organizations, veterinary medical associations, veterinary students and other related organizations through the VMAT U program.