Grants help veterinarians affected by wildfires

Animal care reimbursement, veterinarian relief grants available from AVMF
Published on February 01, 2008
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A number of veterinarians were affected by the wildfires that spread through Southern California in October. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation continues to offer grants of up to $2,000 each to veterinarians who suffered losses or who incurred costs by offering medical services to animal victims.

The grants are made possible through the Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund, which was created after Hurricane Katrina to help ensure veterinary care to the animal victims of disasters.

As of mid-December, the AVMF had awarded its first round of grants related to the wildfires to three veterinarians. At least a dozen more applications were being processed. Veterinarians have up to nine months after a disaster to apply for a grant from the ADRR fund.

Dr. Richard Johnson was the recipient of a $2,000 animal care reimbursement grant from the AVMF. Dr. Johnson and his wife, Dr. Nancy Hampel, own the Animal Medical Center in El Cajon, Calif. They offered free boarding to as many as 400 cats and dogs of owners who were displaced by the wildfires.

Dr. Johnson spread the word of his center's services by talking on-air with a local radio talk show host. "I said, 'We have a large practice and we're willing to do whatever it takes if people need a place to keep their animals while they're concerned for the fires,'" he said. He asked owners to bring their own carriers to house their pets.

Dr. Johnson said the AVMF grant will help pay for the medical services provided to animals that were injured during the wildfires.

In addition to animal care reimbursement grants, the AVMF also offers relief grants from the ADRR fund. Dr. Andrew Klotz, a relief veterinarian from Highland Valley, Calif., was the recipient of a $2,000 relief grant.

Dr. Klotz lost his home and most of his five-acre avocado orchard to the wildfires. He was able to escape with his two cats and two dogs but had to leave four llamas and a semiferal cat behind. The llamas were alive when he returned, but he has yet to find the cat.

"Because of what I presume were unusual fire-spawned, tornadic winds on the backside of the mountain on which I live, we went from no smoke, no visible fire, to fire everywhere in a matter of minutes due to shower embers," Dr. Klotz recalled.

Dr. Klotz evacuated in a hurry, leaving behind many irreplaceable family heirlooms and art. As for his orchard, he estimates he lost what would have been 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of avocados by harvest time.

The relief grant from the AVMF will help make up for lost income, Dr. Klotz said. He lost about 10 days of work to evacuating, relocating, and dealing with insurance or other related issues. "Fortunately, I am well insured for the house, but the crop insurance is dismal," he added. "Every little bit helps."

Dr. Christine Wilson, owner of the Steele Canyon Veterinary Clinic in Jamul, Calif., also received a $2,000 relief grant from the AVMF. Her clinic was evacuated and shut down for four days as a result of the wildfires. Luckily, the flames didn't reach her clinic.

The grant from the AVMF will help Dr. Wilson pay the clinic's bills. "Even though we were closed down, the bills were the same," she said, noting that she also paid her staff for the days that the clinic was ordered shut down.

Veterinarians affected by the wildfires, or any other disaster, can learn more about grants from the Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund by visiting the AVMF online at or contacting Monique Buonincontro, AVMF grants coordinator, at (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6691, or at mbuonincontroatavma [dot] org.