The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences wrapped a large-scale, multi-agency emergency response training exercise designed to prepare the team for future deployments in response to animal issues in disaster.
“Over the course of Operation New Horizons, we focused on our three key missions,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett, VET director. “First and foremost, we train alongside Texas Task Force – 1 and provide key veterinary support to their search and rescue canines. We were able to not only practice responding to potential injuries with these dogs, but also provide them important physical exams and hydration during the course of the exercise. By assisting Texas Task Force – 1 in this way, their search and rescue canines are able to stay in the field longer and potentially save more lives.”
In addition, the VET responds to animals injured in disaster situations in conjunction with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Members of the TAHC participated in the weekend exercise to practice planning and inter-agency communication.
“As part of the state response to animal issues, we work cooperatively with the animal response team from the TAHC,” added Bissett. “They are a lead agency in animal emergency response, and it is absolutely critical that we work together during exercises such as this so that we are prepared to address animal welfare concerns together when deployed in the field.”
Animals have become true family members for many people, and the ability to not only reunite an injured animal with its owner, as well as providing a resource to first responders who previously were not able to help with injured animals is another focus of the VET team.
“When disaster strikes, people can lose their homes and their valuables,” said Bissett. “Often times a pet that survives is all they will have to connect them with their past. Being able to give them back that one thing, their pet, makes a huge psychological impact on both the pet owner and the rescuers.”
Disasters inevitably occur, and training exercises such as Operation New Horizons provide new opportunities to build cooperative relationships that enhance the ability to save lives of humans and animals alike.