History of AVMA Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs

A major initiative pursued by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has been its disaster preparedness and response efforts with the federal government.

With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the AVMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in May 1993, veterinary services became incorporated into the Federal Response Plan, now the National Response Framework, for disaster relief as part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). The AVMA's pioneering efforts in developing a world-class veterinary response team program, the Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT), resulted in this MOU. The agreement yielded 14 years of collaboration between the federal government and the AVMA, during which time the AVMA VMAT provided on-the-ground veterinary response during times of national emergencies.

As our world has changed since 1993, and federal laws have changed to address new national security challenges, so has the AVMA's part in federal emergency response. The AVMA is proud to have developed the model of what is now the NDMS National Veterinary Response Teams (NVRT). The AVMA looks forward to continued collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services NDMS in its new capacities in emergency preparedness and response.

The AVMA also collaborates with other federal agencies, including the United States Department of Agriculture. The completion, in August 1994, of a Memorandum of Understanding between the AVMA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) made it possible for the VMAT to assist the USDA in the control, treatment, and eradication of animal disease outbreaks. Such a response would occur under the direction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The MOU, originally signed in 1994, continues between the AVMA and the USDA.

In addition, on January 26, 1998, the AVMA and American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) signed a statement of understanding (SOU) with The American National Red Cross. In the SOU, the American Red Cross recognized the AVMA and AVMF as the only national organizations representing the entire profession of licensed veterinarians solely responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, health and well-being of all animals, including and during periods designated as disaster relief. Ten years later, in February 2008, the three groups penned a more formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) laying out the groundwork for increased cooperation. During disasters, Red Cross volunteers refer all animal medical questions and needs to veterinarians affiliated with the national, state, county, or local veterinary medical associations.