College of Veterinary Medicine
part of new response team
To streamline future relief efforts and provide a more effective means for dealing with animal issues when natural disasters occur, North Carolina Cooperative Extension and N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine have collaborated with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Veterinary Medical Association, Division of Emergency Management and numerous organizations and agencies to form the state animal response team (SART).
“If we had had anything in place like SART last year, “ says Ed Jones, associate state program leader for natural resources and community and rural development, “we would have been able to dispose of all those dead poultry and swine within two weeks instead of six — and for one tenth of the $10 million it cost the state.”
SART was launched in January and is charged with handling animal feeding issues, abandoned animals, animal evacuation, aiding sick or injured animals and coordinating the disposal of dead livestock during a natural disaster. The team also plans to tackle other broad-reaching issues such as how to respond to a foreign animal disease outbreak or events involving chemicals or radiation.
One of the main goals of this newly formed team is to improve the logistics of animal relief at the county level — a level where Extension remains well positioned to respond to local needs, according to Jones.
“SART blends well with Extension’s present infrastructure. Our livestock agents know the people in their communities well and are seen as a solid, dependable source of information. We are working with these agents to develop a plan to address livestock and other animal needs during and after natural disasters,” says Jones.
The plan Jones refers to involves key local agencies — such as animal control, emergency management and public health — in the relief effort. SART assigned these county animal response teams (CARTs) to specific relief roles that include the core planning, financial and operational needs that arise with the onset of natural disasters. “When the local agencies are involved, the response is both quick and effective,” says Dr. Tom McGinn, assistant state veterinarian.
SART has developed a World Wide Web site, www.ncsart.org, to aid counties in developing their local plan. The site serves as a clearinghouse of animal relief information and lists every available county plan. It includes links to a sample disaster plan checklist, complete with a step-by-step guide to developing a plan, links to other key SART agencies and important training dates that CART personnel should attend. According to McGinn, the site allows counties to borrow ideas from each other and learn about neighboring counties that may need help. It also encourages counties to have a plan in place before the next natural disaster hits.
“SART represents a proactive, mulitagency approach that makes good use of Extension’s resources,” says Dr. Jon F. Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. “I hope we never face a natural disaster like Hurricane Floyd again. But if we do, everyone will be better prepared to deal with the animal issues because of this team.”