Disaster Preparedness for Veterinarians

Disaster and emergency preparedness and response are important issues to the AVMA. Animals are impacted by the same disasters and emergencies as humans - natural, manmade, large, and small. Whether it's a hurricane or tornado, a flood or earthquake, a chemical leak or an act of terrorism, veterinarians are vital to response and recovery efforts during and after disasters. We also play an important role in promoting and aiding preparedness efforts, to limit the impact of disasters on both animals and people.

The veterinary community also needs to be ready for possible animal disease emergencies and disasters because of the critical role veterinarians play in ensuring the safety of livestock and our nation's food supply. For this reason, the AVMA encourages and fosters veterinary leadership in local, state and federal efforts to deal with "all hazards / all species" within the United States – preparing for disasters and emergencies involving animals, animal and public health, and other veterinary issues.

AVMA VMAT: First responders providing animal care

An important part of the AVMA's disaster preparedness and response effort is the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team program, which provides volunteers who serve as first responders to ensure high-quality care of animals during disasters and emergencies. The VMAT program, which is supported through funding from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), was created by the AVMA after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It began as a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but later evolved into a program operated solely by the AVMA.

Providing expertise and guidance on the subject as well as complementing the VMAT program, the AVMA established the Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues in 2001 to:

  • Address the veterinarian's role in emergency and disaster issues
  • Address the effects of disasters on animal health, public health, and the veterinary profession
  • Contribute to the development of AVMA position statements on disaster and emergency issues that affect the veterinary profession
  • Develop guidelines for the veterinary profession to use regarding various aspects of disaster situations

The AVMA also has created a wide range of written materials, podcasts, videos and other resources to assist veterinarians and their clients with disaster preparedness and response. Please use the Quick Links section above to help yourself and your clients be better prepared for the possibility of a disaster or other emergency.