The foundational documents that set forth the guidelines and plans to be used during disasters are called Emergency Support Function (ESF) Annexes that define how different federal, state and local agencies will coordinate to accomplish critical tasks.

There are 15 different federally designated ESFs.

As described by USDA, the ESF Nos. 5, 6, 8, and 9 include tasks in which veterinarians can and have played important roles.

ESF No. 5 encompasses the overall Emergency Management of the Federal response. The Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency will be the overall ESF Coordinator for the Federal response. This ESF is responsible for supporting overall activities of the Federal Government for domestic incident management – preparedness through recovery.


ESF No. 6 Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services addresses the basic needs of people and their pets during the evacuation, care, sheltering, and post-disaster response. Legislation passed after Hurricane Katrina mandated that government’s plan for the evacuation and sheltering of pets and service animals during disasters with their owners. Veterinarians can play important roles in the sheltering and mass care response for pets and service animals.


ESF No. 8 Public Health and Medical Services coordinates the Federal response to provide medical (including veterinary) and public health services. This ESF specifically includes “Veterinary Medical Support” and indicates that veterinarians will work in support of ESF #11 (discussed on the next page), as part of the response to zoonotic diseases, and by providing an integrated response to address the needs of companion and service animals during an emergency.


ESF No. 9 is the Search and Rescue (SAR) Annex. Veterinarians and technicians who are part of credentialed SAR teams may become involved in support of SAR operations that directly affect animals, as well as caring for animals used in human SAR operations (e.g., search dogs and cadaver dogs). If not part of such teams, they may provide triage and field stabilization services for rescued animals. Individual SARTs and VMRCs may also have cooperative agreements within their state SAR and emergency response teams.


In addition to ESFs, New Jersey has a specially trained response team, Task Force 1.

Task Force 1 will help identify homes and other buildings where animals are housed or trapped and will help move them to safety or provide critical information to those specifically trained to do so.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is responsible for oversight of State emergency response teams and plans affecting animals during emergencies and disasters.  The NJDA website contains information for planning, assisting and response that all animal owners in the state should review to be sure they are adequately prepared to care for their animals at all times.

New Jersey Animal Emergency Response