FDA’s recent announcement that it is “withdrawing draft Guidance for Industry (GFI) #230, ‘Compounding Animal Drugs from Bulk Drug Substances’” reminded me that pet owners can become confused about what type of medications are available for treating their pets.  For example, while serving on the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medicine, I recall a fair number of consumer complaints that alleged that a veterinarian provided substandard medical care because the medication prescribed to a pet was labeled “for human use only.”  Consumers therefore concluded that the medication harmed their pet.

However, the fact that medication is not specifically approved for use in animals does not mean that it would necessarily be harmful to those animals.

In fact, the use of an approved drug in a manner that is different than stated on the label, has been a fundamental tool used in veterinary medicine since drugs were first labeled.  This “extralabel” drug use was memorialized by Congress in the Animal Medicinal Drug Clarification Act of 1994 (AMDUCA).  See AVMA’s description of AMDUCA.

As AVMA describes on it’s website, “Compounding: FAQ for Veterinarians,” “compounding for animal patients . . . [is] a subpart of  [the] Extralabel Drug Use (ELDU) Rules.”

The ability to use approved drugs in species, for treatments, or at dosages, frequencies, or routes of administration that are not included on the label, is a tool that veterinarians use on a daily basis.  Since obtaining drug approvals for all uses in all types of animal species is cost-prohibitive, the only way some animals can be treated is through the use of drugs in an extra-labeled fashion.

When used properly and pursuant to the standard of care in veterinary medicine, such use should be considered legal.

While FDA has stated that “[c]urrent law does not permit compounding of animal drugs from bulk drug substances,” whether, and to what extent FDA governs compounding in the veterinary space has been the subject of legal debate.

However, FDA’s withdrawal of its guidance document related to compounding animal drugs from bulk substances creates even more confusion and uncertainty for the regulated community.  The now withdrawn guidance document,  Guidance #230, had set forth the situations in which FDA had indicated that it would not take regulatory action against a pharmacy or veterinarian when “an animal drug compounded from bulk substances may be an appropriate treatment option.”

Now, instead of finalizing the draft guidance based on comments received, “FDA intends to publish the new draft in early 2018 for public comment.”

So, the regulated community will be without guidance for a short period of time.

Hopefully FDA’s new guidance will continue to permit compounding from bulk substances when needed to provide adequate medical care for animals in need thereof.

 

For the third time, New Jersey state agencies have concluded that the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), described as “wannabe cops,” by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation report aptly titled “ Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 years later.”

Some of the highlights of the report, available here, include a summary of the report previously completed in 2000:

Nearly two decades ago, the State Commission of investigation conducted an inquiry into the activities and financial practices of the various Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New Jersey.  The investigation’s final report, completed in 2000, exposed a range of waste, abuse and malfeasance so widespread as to render many of these entities incapable of fulfilling their primary statutory obligation: the enforcement of state laws designed to prevent cruelty to animals.

Along with uncovering substantial – in some cases criminal – wrongdoing, the investigation also revealed that New Jersey remained mired in an archaic legislative scheme allowing unsupervised groups of private citizens to enforce animal cruelty laws.  These volunteers are empowered to carry weapons, investigate complaints of criminal and civil misconduct, issue summonses and effect arrests.  The Commission further found that some of these SPCAs became havens for gun-carrying wannabe cops motivated by personal gains, or the private domain of a select few who discarded rules on a whim.

The Commission concluded that the delegation of such broad power to private citizens may have been understandable, indeed, a necessity in the 1800s when the laws creating the New Jersey and county SCPAs were written.  That arrangement, however, is not workable in the highly stratified and professionalized law enforcement system of the 21st Century, and the Commission recommended turning over the enforcement role to government.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

As the State Commission on Investigation recently found:

[t]he NJSPCA  – even though operating as a not-for-profit organization – is also supposed to be the steward of substantial amounts of public monies in the form of fines collected through animal cruelty violations and donations from citizens . . . Unfortunately, the Commission found that the altruistic mission of the organization became secondary to those who controlled the NJSPCA and subverted it for their own selfish ends and self-aggrandizement. The findings of this inquiry make plain that permitting a part-time policing unit staffed by private citizens to serve as the primary enforcers of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws is illogical, ineffective and makes the entire system vulnerable to abuse.  Moreover, the government apparatus to perform this function is already in place-in the form of municipal and county animal control officers working in coordination with local police.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

The Commission concluded that the NJSPCA is an organization that:

  • Fails to consistently respond to serious allegation of animal cruelty complaints-its core mission-in a timely manner and keeps records that are so sloppy it was often impossible to determine specific action taken on cases.

  • Spends more money on legal bills – racking up more than $775,000 over the past five years – than for any other expense, including funds that directly support animal care.

  • Circumvents the spirit of a 2006 law to establish effective and transparent governance at the NJSPCA by adopting bylaws that exclude the board of trustees – which has three members appointed by the Governor – from having any supervision of its law enforcement activities.

  • Remains a haven for wannabe cops, some of whom believe they may exercise police powers beyond enforcement of the animal cruelty statutes, such as conducting traffic stops.

  • Allows nearly a third of its approximately 20 humane officers to carry firearms despite the fact that those individuals do not hop up-to-date authorization to do so from the New Jersey State Police, which by law, must be renewed every two years. They are also exempt from the requirement to obtain a firearms permit.

  • Lacks the ability to estimate how much revenue it is entitled to receive from animal cruelty fines – a major source of its funding – and has no apparatus to collect these monies.

  • Allows top-ranking members access to certain questionable perks, such as care for personal use, and other beneficial benefits – at the expense of unwitting donors, and tolerates blatant conflicts of interest that profit its key officials.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

Unfortunately, the report did not comment on NJSPCAs presumed failure to notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture when complaints regarding livestock or poultry are received, as required by law, in order to ensure that infectious, contagious diseases in animals that may appear to have been treated cruelly, are properly handled to protect human and animal health.

For those interested in testifying about this report and potential legislation to make a real change in the State’s enforcement of its animal cruelty law, on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am:

The Senate Economic Growth Committee will take testimony on the recent report released by the State Commission of Investigation regarding the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  In addition, the committee will discuss legislative reform to strengthen the enforcement of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws. Individuals presenting written testimony are asked to provide 10 copies to the committee aide at the public hearing.

Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue), as previously described, transports dogs from the south to the northeastern states for sale/adoption.  The Rescue states that

No exchange of payment may occur within the boarders [sic] of the State of Connecticut.

Connecticut, in an attempt to protect consumers and pets, requires animal importers to register with the Commissioner of Agriculture, which the Rescue has done. Connecticut also requires:

“[a]ny animal importer who intends to offer for sale, adoption or transfer any dog or cat at a venue or location that is open to the public or at an outdoor location, including, but not limited to, a parking lot or shopping center, shall provide notice to the Department of Agriculture and the municipal zoning enforcement officer of the town where any such sale, adoption or transfer will occur, not later than ten days prior to such event. Such notice shall state the date for such sale, adoption or transfer event, the exact location of such event and the anticipated number of animals for sale, adoption or transfer at such event. Any person who fails to provide notice as required pursuant to this subdivision shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars per animal that is offered for sale, adoption or transfer at such event.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(2)

The statute defines “animal importer” as a person who brings any dog or cat into this state from any other sovereign entity for the purpose of offering such dog or cat to any person for sale, adoption or transfer in exchange for any fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service or any other consideration.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(3).

Is the Rescue attempted to avoid these requirements by arranging for the sale to occur before entering Connecticut?

The Rescue seems to be relying on a fact sheet written by CT Votes for Animals, dated 7/1/2015, titled CT Importation Law Fact Sheet (the Factsheet).

That Factsheet states:

An adopter who intends to keep a cat or dog as a personal companion is not an animal importer if the adopter owns the cat or dog at the time the animal is brought into Connecticut (e.g., the cat or dog is offered on Petfinder and adopted prior to arriving in Connecticut).

It is not clear whether the Rescue, assuming that notification to the State of Connecticut is not required if the transfer of ownership occurs online, before the Rescue enters the State.

But, if the sale/adoption occurs through Petfinder, before entry into the State, that transfer should be considered a non-face-to-face sale by USDA, in which case the Rescue would have to apply for and be approved as a licensee under the Animal Welfare Act. Currently, they describe themselves as an USDA Class T registrant, not as a licensee.

The Factsheet also appears to have other inaccuracies.

For example, it describes importation laws for dogs or cats pursuant to CT. ST. §22-354(a) as “Prior law.” However, currently, CT. ST. §22-354(a) remains in effect.

In addition to these importation provision, CT. ST. §22-344(f), “Veterinary examination of cat or dog imported into state by animal importer,” also requires:

“Any animal importer, as defined in section 22-344, shall, not later than forty-eight hours after importing any dog or cat into this state and prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat to any person, provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384. Thereafter, such animal importer shall provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 every ninety days until such dog or cat is sold, adopted or transferred, provided no such dog or cat shall be sold, adopted or transferred to another person by an animal importer unless (1) such dog or cat was examined by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 not more than fifteen days prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat, and (2) such veterinarian provides such animal importer with a written certificate stating that such dog or cat is free of any symptoms of any illness, infectious, contagious or communicable disease. Such certificate shall list the name, address and contact information of such animal importer. Any animal importer who violates the provisions of this subsection shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for each animal that is the subject of such violation.”

The Factsheet, however, replacing the term “provide” with “arrange” states that “the examination itself may occur after the 48 hour period [or] . . . after the 90 day period,” respectively.

That does not appear to be consistent with the statutory language or the legislative history.

The purpose of this provision, adopted in 2011, as summarized in the legislative history, was to, in relevant part, “(1) require a veterinarian to examine a cat or dog within 48 hours of the animal being imported and within 15 days before the sale, adoption, or transfer of the animal.” (emphasis added).

As further described:

“Veterinarian Services and Records Required

The bill requires an animal importer, within 48 hours of importing a cat or dog into Connecticut and before offering it for sale, adoption, or transfer, and every 90 days until the sale, adoption, or transfer is complete, to have a state-licensed veterinarian examine the animal. Each animal must be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian within 15 days before a sale, adoption, or transfer and the veterinarian must provide the animal importer a written health certificate for the animal. An animal importer who violates these provisions is subject to a find of up to $500 for each unexamined or uncertified animal.”

Since the laws in Connecticut were passed to protect human and animal health, at least in part, it is critical that dog sales and/or adoptions are conducted as these provisions require.

 

 

 

Retail rescue organizations like Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue) who purport to provide “loving, humane road trips to homeless, unwanted, and unloved dogs from Southern Kill Shelters . . . deliver[ed] to Loving ‘Forever Homes’ in New England and surrounding areas,” do nothing to decrease the number of dogs being irresponsibly bred.  They actually do the opposite by facilitating the irresponsible, non-purposeful breeding of dogs.

And, while preventing a dog from unnecessary death is laudable, this operation, like other rescues and some shelters that have largely replaced pet stores and professional breeders as the source of pets in the U.S., this Rescue appears to be quite profitable.

As reported on their website, they have saved over 55,000 dogs to date.  These are dogs moved from southern states to the northeast, where the supply of dogs for sale/adoption does not meet demand, despite statements by HSUS, ASPCA and others claiming that pet store sourcing bans are needed because of the local overpopulation of dogs purportedly caused by pet store sales.

Notably, the justification of a bill recently passed in New York related to regulation of rescues and shelters described the current state of the supply of pets, noting

The number of animals euthanized in U.S. shelters has seen a precipitous decline in the past four decades, from around 15 million annually in the 1970’s to around 3 million currently . . . there are literally hundreds of unregulated entities importing dogs into New York each year . . . [through] the almost 500 incorporated animal groups currently registered with the Office of the Attorney General’s . . . Charities Bureau . . .

The Rescue, reportedly charging $185 per dog per transport―plus another unreported adoption fee per dog―has earned over $10,000,000 in revenues to date.  While there are costs related to transport, the Rescue reports that volunteers pay for the dogs pulled from shelters, and for their medical care, and assists them with canine care along the way, all for no charge to the Rescue.

Think about how that much money could be used to educate dog owners in the south about responsible breeding and provide voluntary spay/neuter programs that have been so effective in many parts of the country, including the northeast.

According to the Rescue’s IRS 990, available on ProPublica’s website, it was formed in 2015, and for that year, revenues totaled $230,000 and the officers reported no working hours or expenses.  Does that mean that they have transported 55,000 dogs since 2016?

To its credit, the Rescue’s “Requirements to Board Transport,” are generally consistent with interstate animal health requirements and sound veterinary medicine, but there may be other concerns about their conduct, particularly in the State of Connecticut, to be discussed further.

On October 12, 2017 Nestlé USA announced that by 2024 they would

“strive to source all of the broiler chickens we use as ingredients for our U.S. food portfolio from sources meeting a higher standard of animal welfare, building on our global Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare.”

More specifically, Nestlé has committed to sourcing from farmers who raise chicken with slower growth rates, good leg health, reduced stocking rates, and further compliance with standards approved by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit “registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and brings together a diverse group with the common goal of improving farm animal farm animal welfare standards around the world.”

Nestlé acknowledges that this commitment is “complex,” “require[s] investment and time, and the transition over the next seven years must be done in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

There are six different levels or steps in GAP standards, that increasingly require significant investments by farmers who must modify their existing housing facilities and decrease the number of animals that can be raised in the existing space.

One of the concerns about laws that require changes to husbandry standards for farm animals are the related costs.  For example, California’s 2008 ballot initiative, Prevention of Farmed Animal Cruelty Act (“Prop 2”), funded in large part by the Human Society of the United States, requires egg-laying hens, veal calves and hogs to have sufficient room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely in their enclosures.

Despite the passage of Prop 2, HSUS is once again leading the effort to require additional changes to the law in California.  The recently proposed initiative would prohibit all sales of veal or pork in California unless produced in a manner that complies with California’s law.

The proposed initiative would also require that all eggs produced and sold in California must come from cage-free birds as of December 21, 2021.  The farmers in or outside of California who had modified their former housing systems to be in compliance with Prop 2 will now have to make additional significant investments in their housing systems again.  Such required continual modifications of animal housing facilities are not cost-effective nor sustainable.

Perhaps this is the point, since the goals of HSUS and many other animal rights organizations are to eliminate animal agriculture entirely.

I recently attended the 2017 National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) Conference, titled “Animal Nation.”  There, I heard the remarkable, heart-wrenching but uplifting story about the life of Joshua Frase and the challenges he overcame with the support from his family who never gave up in their relentless search to find a cure for Myotubular Myopathy (MTM), a genetic disorder affecting skeletal muscle that Joshua was born with.

As described on the foundation’s website, children born with MTM “will often experience skeletal problems, gait problems, respiratory and feeding challenges, and fatigability along with poor muscle development . . . Statistically, 50% of these children do not live past their 2nd birthday.”

Joshua’s mom, Alison Rockett Frase shared her story at the NAIA conference:

On February 2, 1995, Alison gave birth to her son, Joshua—a baby so weak, he could only move his right hand.  The doctors said that he wouldn’t survive the day and, in a moment that defined the rest of her life, Alison said, “Let’s give him a chance.”  From that moment on, Alison became Joshua’s advocate. Before his first birthday, Alison determined that she would use her husband’s platform in the NFL to start a foundation that would one day find a cure or treatment for her son’s condition. I n 1996, together with her husband, she created the Joshua Frase Foundation.  Since that time, Alison has helped raise over $6 million to fund medical research, search for a cure and raise awareness of neuromuscular-related disorders.

During her search for a cure for this rare disease and to save her son and others similarly challenged, Alison, with scientists and researchers started unraveling the clues to a treatment and perhaps a cure.

After studying the use of gene therapy to restore normal function in mice with the same disorder, the search was on to find a larger animal model before the treatment could begin in humans.

Alison described that search:

This may be the last chance to save my son Joshua. His health has declined dramatically and I am sensing impending danger. It is a miracle that Joshua is now 14, given the odds he would never celebrate his first birthday. It has been a tough and critical year physically for Joshua. We knew the gene replacement therapy success we were showing in the mouse model had to translate to a larger animal before we could even consider getting the FDA’s attention for human trials.

Miraculously, Alison found that animal model in a Labrador Retriever living in Canada named Nibs, who carried the genes for MTM.  Nibs’ puppies born with MTM have been successfully treated.  Nibs, who had been given to Alison to help find a cure for Joshua, was returned to her owner to live out the rest of her life back on the farm in Canada, running with horses.

On September 21, 2017, “Audentes Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: BOLD), a biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing gene therapy products for patients living with serious, life-threatening rare diseases . . . announced it has commenced dosing of patients in ASPIRO, a Phase 1 / 2 clinical trial of AT132 for the treatment of X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy (XLMTM).”

Alison is hopeful that this treatment will save the lives of those afflicted with this devastating disorder.  Sadly, Joshua passed away in 2010.

If you are interested in learning more about Joshua, the Foundation, and this remarkable research that will help save lives of children and puppies, please visit the website to learn more.

On September 22, 2017, the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (NJABR) offered its 24th Annual IACUC Conference,  – “the region’s premier training conference for Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee members, lab animal veterinarians, animal welfare compliance specialists and lab animal research team members.”

As described, the conference focused “focus on opportunities to improve laboratory animal welfare, while reducing regulatory burdens, cutting red tape and creating efficiencies within institutions.”  Toward that end, presenters from NIH and USDA (Patricia Brown, VMD, MS, Director, NIH, OLAW and William S. Stokes, ACLAM, DACAW, BCES, FATS, Assistant Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA, APHIS, respectively) requested recommendations from the attendees to reduce unnecessary or redundant regulatory burdens to researchers.

Following morning presentations, discussed further below, the conference included the following workshop selections that attendees could attend:

AAALAC Perspectives on Occupational Health & Safety Programs

Presenter: Richard B. Huneke, DVM, Council Member Emeritus

Animal Care & Use Committee Scenarios: You Make the Call

Presenter: Pam Straeter, RLATG, Asst. Director, Research Integrity and Assurance, Princeton University

Legal Update: USDA, Animals and the Law                               

Presenter: Nancy Halpern, DVM, Esq., Attorney, Fox Rothschild

New IACUC Member – Double Session   

Presenter: Amy Salem, PhD, Associate Director of Operations and Training for Animal Welfare, Merck

Ask the Regulators                                                                    

Presenters:

Patricia Brown, VMD, MS, Director, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare

Tonya Hadjis, DVM, Supervisory Animal Care Specialist, Northeast Area, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care

John F. Lopinto, DVM, Veterinary Medical Officer, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care

Ashley C. McIntosh, DVM, Veterinary Medical Officer, USDA, APHIS

Animal Reproducibility & Relatability of Animal Research to Human Research

Panelists:

Damir Hamamdzic, DVM, PhD, Research and Regulatory Affairs, Post-Approval Monitoring Compliance Administrator, Rutgers University

Sarah E. Robertson, PhD, Director, Sponsored Projects and Research, University of the Sciences

Laszlo Szabo, Esq., Director, Research and Regulatory Affairs, Rutgers University

Andrew Gow, Ph.D., Professor and IACUC Chair, Rutgers University

Elizabeth Dodemaide, BVSc, MA, MANZCVS, Director Comparative Medicine Resources, Rutgers University

Gregory Reinhard, DVM, Director, Animal Welfare, University of Pennsylvania

Strategies to Enhance Animal Welfare Compliance Monitoring

Presenters:

Pharmaceutical: Lisa Stanislawczyk, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CRO: Mary Ann Jacobs, Envigo

Academic: Greg Reinhard, MBA, DVM, University of Pennsylvania, The Role of the Statistician in Study Design, IACUC Protocol Preparation Data Analysis

Presenter: Alfred Barron, Associate Director, Nonclinical Statistics/TMEDS, Janssen Research & Development

The keynote speaker, Jim Welch, Executive Director of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Research Foundation, presented a phenomenal motivational talk about “the importance of safe work practices, biosecurity, and collaboration among organizations and institutions seeking to advance scientific discovery.”  It does not sound like a topic that would lend itself to a motivational talk, anyone looking for a keynote should consider Jim.

Overall, it was another great conference.

 

As reported by Texas Department of Agriculture the following needs for livestock have been identified:

Donation of Hay and Feed:
The Department is currently working with Texas A&M AgriLife for donations of animal hay and feed. If you would like to donate hay, please call, text or email the TDA staff listed at the number listed below and let us know where the closest drop off location is for you. In your message, please provide your name, phone number, location and type of hay or feed to be donated and whether you have transportation.

Transport
Please note that we do not have transport but we are maintaining contact info for hay donors in the event we get offers for transport or others in your area who may be able to pick up hay. If you have transportation services that you can offer to help bring hay to the Coast from throughout Texas, we need your help! Please give us a call.

Pasture
If you have pasture, please contact us with your information to be put in our database for those who need help. If you are in need of pasture space, please contact us and we can provide information for someone with pasture who may be closest to you and provide assistance.

Water Troughs
If you have water troughs to donate, please contact us for donating those as well. Several of the supply points are in severe need for those.

Contact Jessica Escobar at (512) 803-7847 or Jessica.Escobar@TexasAgriculture.gov if you can help.

Southwest FarmPress reports that hay drops are underway to reach cattle that are lost, stranded, or unable to be reached by ranchers “where flood waters remain standing in fields and roads are still closed and impassable.”

Fortunately, aviation units from the Texas National Guard, from Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi and other states are responding, loading bales of hay and  launching what promises to be the largest air drop of hay in history, an attempt to provide rescue food for livestock until waters finally recede and herds can be collected, treated, and moved to safety.

 

Choppers have been flying non-stop as state animal biologists and state animal health veterinarians with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) attempt to identify where small groups of animals are stuck in mud or stranded in water from aerial photographs, from satellite photos and by using UAV (drone) fly-overs.

Still, the loss of livestock, yet to be determined, is expected to be devastating.

As those of us fortunate enough to be outside of the reach of Irma watch with concern about the impact this storm is wreaking on Florida and its human and animal residents, it is important to keep in mind how we can all help from afar.

When it comes to disaster response affecting animals, Florida has some of the best trained and experienced State and County Agricultural Response teams in the country, ready to implement their decades-long training and plans to help pets, livestock, and wild animals.

Like other states, Florida’s emergency response plans are developed by and with the Division of Emergency Management which “prepares and implements a statewide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and routinely conducts extensive exercises to test state and county emergency response capabilities.”

Florida’s Department of Agriculture plays a critical role in disaster response, similar to the state emergency operations plan in New Jersey, where the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is the lead agency for the following Appendices in Emergency Support Function 11 (Agricultural Annex):

  • Appendix A-Food
  • Appendix B-Animals-Veterinary Services and Animal Care
  • Appendix C-Animals-Highly Contagious or Economically Devastating Animal Diseases
  • Appendix D-Animals-Highly Contagious or Economically Devastating Animal Diseases (Zoonotic)
  • Appendix E-Plants/Crops-Highly Contagious or Economically Devastating Plant Pest Infestation/Diseases
  • Appendix F-Farmer Assistance.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the lead agency for animal and agricultural emergencies.

To fulfill its responsibilities as lead to emergency support function seventeen (ESF-17), the Department facilitated the development of the State Agricultural Response Team (SART) as a planning, training, and response support group with the aid of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF IFAS), UF College of Veterinary Medicine, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). SART partners have specific interests and resources that can be utilized to address the needs of the State of Florida. SART is composed of partner agencies and organizations including local, state, and federal agencies, private sector entities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Florida’s SART website lists the following states that have also developed their own state animal response teams, including Maine, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Louisiana.

 

In Texas, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) works with USDA to

plan, collaborate, and coordinate with the states’ animal health-related agencies, agriculture industries, and other related agencies and parties. TAHC and USDA work to prevent and respond to foreign animal disease outbreaks, dangerous parasite or pest infestations, and bioterrorism. The agencies are ready to assist in response and recovery during natural or man-made catastrophes, including fires, floods, and hurricanes, in accordance with the FEMA Emergency Response Plan and/or the State of Texas Emergency plan in the following areas: Animal ownership identification, livestock restraint/capture, carcass disposal, coordinating livestock evacuation, consulting on animal health and public health concerns, and chemical/biological terrorism issues.

On their website, TAHC provided the following update on September 9, 2017:

The Animal Response Operations Coordination Center is now in day 15 of Hurricane Harvey response and recovery.

TAHC animal assessment teams deployed – 2 teams of at least two people each. We are scaling back but will continue efforts until all animal needs are met

The following counties were completed by ground or air – Aransas, Austin, Bee, Bastrop, Brazos, Brazoria, Burleson, Calhoun, Caldwell, Chambers, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nueces, Newton, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Trinity, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Washington, Waller, and Wharton.

TAHC and partners have assessed more than 18,881 livestock by air and ground.

If an animal has been without food for several days, introduce food slowly, in small amounts. Gorging maybe harmful to some animals, especially pet birds.

TAHC is continuing to work with partners to deliver hay and feed to stranded livestock.

Information explaining disposal of dead animals can be found online at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us/emergency/index.html.

Hay transportation is a critical need. If you are able to transport donated hay, please contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension hotline at 979-845-7800.

If you own or see livestock that need assistance call your local authorities.

If you have an animal (livestock or pet) that needs to be sheltered, call 211.

Total animals (livestock and pets) currently housed in shelters reporting to TAHC:

Livestock (cattle, horses, small ruminants, swine, poultry): 2098

Pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, pet birds, potbelly pigs): 1298

The TAHC is grateful to the #TexasArmyNationalGuard for delivering more than 210,000 pounds of hay to the marooned livestock this week.

If you need assistance or have questions about how you can help, call the Harvey Hotline 512-719-0799 or visit http://www.tahc.state.tx.us/emergency/index.html.

As the former New Jersey State Veterinarian, responsible for drafting and implementing disaster plans in this state, I know how important and helpful donations to the proper entity can be.

Therefore, anyone interested in donating money or supplies for animals in need in Florida or Texas should visit the websites of the agency with primary responsibility for responding to these emergencies.  For example, in Texas, the TAHC identified hay and livestock feed as one of the most critical needs, but those needs may change in the days to come.

For those in harms way, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

 

As we have seen in footage covering the events following Hurricane Harvey and the unprecedented rain and flooding related thereto, it is extremely important for governments, animal-related business owners and animal owners to take all possible steps to plan for disasters that affect people and animals.

For livestock owners, that means planning to relocate herds and flocks.  When flocks cannot be relocated, back up generators are required to provide electricity for proper maintenance of poultry housing.  Dairy farmers may need government assistance to allow for, or assist, bulk tank pickups to continue.  Local governments must include these facilities in their emergency planning to provide for the adequate care of these animals.

For zoos and aquariums that means planning for adequate temporary containers and caging for relocation, or adequate facilities to shelter in place.  The specialized care required for these animals should be part of emergency planning.

For biomedical research facilities, planning must include the ability of trained personnel to return to the facilities to care for any animals that cannot be evacuated.

For companion animal owners, that means having suitable transport caging available, special medications and feed for the animal(s) with proof of vaccination, and permanent identification of the animals so they can be returned to the owner if separated during the disaster.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, and many other national and local veterinary and animal-related associations have been reporting on and providing assistance to those in need following Hurricane Harvey, and have reported, in part:

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reports that the number of small animals in temporary shelters is fewer than anticipated. However, there are still several counties in southeast Texas that have not been assessed for animal needs because they are difficult to access. TAHC will begin coordination calls among partner animal shelters soon to better identify the number of pets being sheltered from the storm.

More than 6500 pets are being sheltered in temporary emergency shelters in Louisiana

Some organizations have worked together to create and update a map that assists in identifying available services (e.g., shelters, pet stores, veterinary services).

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) deployed to the affected areas the day before Harvey hit and continues to assess and provide care for animals in need. This includes search and rescue dogs, pets, horses, cattle, and other livestock that are separated from their owners, as well as wildlife species in need. In addition to small animals, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital reports they have taken in 34 horses and 2 camels thus far.

Approximately 1.2 million cattle (about 27% of the state’s 4.46 million beef cow herd) are located in the 54 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately many ranchers, assisted by police, were able to herd their cattle to safer ground ahead of the hurricane.

The take home message for all is that disasters―natural or man-made―can happen at any time.  If you own animals, it is important that you take the time to plan for these disasters, and hopefully, you will never have to implement those plans.

For those victims of Hurricane Harvey, we wish you, your families and animals a speedy recovery.