AVMA, AVMF, Red Cross enter agreement for emergencies

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The AVMA and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation signed a partnership agreement Feb. 12 with the American Red Cross to help protect pets and other animals during emergencies.

The three groups have had a statement of understanding since 1998, and the agreement requires that each party re-sign every five years. However, last month the three entities penned a more formal memorandum of understanding that lays out the groundwork for increased cooperation between the national organizations.

"This partnership with the Red Cross will help the American Veterinary Medical Foundation bring substantive help to pets and animals not only on the national level but at the local level. It gives us a hands-on network of people who will work around our goal of helping pets in times of a disaster," said Michael W. Cathey, executive director of the Foundation. "This is an exciting new chapter in the AVMF's outreach efforts."

The AVMF will help fund programs developed under this cooperative arrangement through AVMF grants. The AVMA will serve as a technical adviser to the Red Cross on all animal and veterinary-related aspects of disaster response efforts.

Estimates say that during a major natural disaster, such as a hurricane or forest fire, about 100,000 pets, livestock, and other animals become separated from their owners or lost. Many times owners feel forced to leave their pets behind during a disaster because they haven't appropriately prepared for evacuation. Even when pet owners have prepared, local or state disaster plans may not have been written to accommodate the evacuation of animals. One of the goals of the memorandum is to reverse this trend.

"I am eager to see how we can collectively address challenges in disaster preparedness and response as we look to prepare families for the unexpected," said Dr. Heather Case, AVMA coordinator for emergency preparedness and response. "This new MOU is a call to action for both groups and will allow us to develop new programs on the local level to meet the challenges."

Dr. Case said that the renewed cooperation between the AVMA and the Red Cross is already starting to bear fruit.The Chicago chapter of the Red Cross and the AVMA, for example, have been meeting to address a problem of common concern following house fires: temporary housing for pets. The Red Cross provides temporary housing for the victims of fires but cannot currently accommodate pets.

"Many people choose to sleep in their cars simply because they can't find a home for their pets," Dr. Case said.

A new program being developed by the two groups in Chicago would create a network of local veterinarians who would house the animal victims of a house fire. Once this program is developed in Chicago, they hope to replicate their efforts across the country.

For more information about the AVMF, visit www.avmf.org.