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.