AVMA guarantees funding for VMAT program

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Financial cutbacks have led to a substantial drop in funding from the Department of Homeland Security for several programs, including the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Team program. In addition, quarterly funds for VMAT training from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation may not be available. As a result, the Executive Board at its June meeting approved a recommendation to guarantee some funding for the VMAT program in 2005.

Dr. Robert Hertzog, vice chair of the board, submitted the substitute recommendation, prompted by a recommendation from the Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues for funding of $280,000 to replace the DHS funding. The substitute recommendation states that the funding will be limited to the difference between the budgeted 2005 income from the AVMF Disaster Relief grant ($150,000) and the actual amount received or approved for payment in 2005 from the AVMF (to date $80,000) for the AVMA Disaster Relief Program. The maximum cost of $70,000 will be taken from the Association's reserves.

AVMA funds will be accessed only if the AVMF is unable to disburse its promised third- and fourth-quarter payments.

"Don't think about this as a one-time (grant). We'll probably look at this again next year," said Dr. John Brooks, chair of the House Advisory Committee, during the board's deliberations.

However, the CDEI reported that it intended the AVMA funding to be an emergency, one-time grant. The committee hopes that the program's critical needs will be addressed in future DHS budgeting processes. In May, a member of the DHS staff sent a letter to the AVMA stating that the department intends to continue-and strengthen-its working relationship with the Association.

The VMAT program was established to help local veterinarians resume normal support of the community after a natural, man-made, or any other type of disaster. Members of the VMAT program have the ability to set up a full field hospital and provide medical care for pets, search-and-rescue dogs, livestock, wildlife, and zoo animals. The team may also assist with food safety concerns, zoonotic diseases, terrorist events, and toxicologic problems.