State Departments of Emergency Management prepare and respond to natural disasters by implementing the orchestrated emergency response plans, which state, federal and non-profit partners help develop over the years. These plans, that also include responses to the intentional or accidental introduction of highly pathogenic zoonotic or strictly animal diseases, are considered ever-green and updated based on emerging technology and review of tabletop exercises.

For those farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, zoos, aquaria, equine facilities, animal shelters, pet stores, biomedical research facilities and companion animal owners in need of assistance following Hurricane Florence and then Hurricane Michael in the South East, I hope the following resources can be of assistance.

South Carolina

On October 8, 2018, South Carolina State Veterinarian Boyd H. Parr, DVM implemented “temporary exceptions to the regulations governing the importation and exportation of animals coming into and leaving South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Michael.  All animals moving under these exceptions are expected to return to their state of origin no later than 10/31/18 unless this order is extended or revised.”  The exceptions, set forth at the Clemson Livestock Poultry Health website, permit interstate movement without a Coggins test result form or Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.

A comprehensive list of resources are available on Clemson’s Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery website, including, for example, links to (1) Hurricane Guidance for Livestock Owners; (2) Disaster Plan for Horses; (3) Emergency Equine Stable Sites; Flooding Hay Request Form; (4) Animal/Agriculture Emergency Support Function (ESF)-17 Ag Damage Assessment Information Form; and (5) Business Continuity for Agriculture/Secure Food Supply Plans.

In the face of Hurricane Florence, South Carolina previously suspended certain motor vehicle requirements, including, “such federal rules and regulations, in conjunction with S.C. Code Ann. §§ 56-5-4010 et seq., which establish size, weight, and load requirements for South Carolina highways, for, in relevant part, “Persons and vehicles transporting livestock, poultry, food for livestock and poultry, and crops ready to be harvested.”

Georgia

In Georgia, the Department of Agriculture has a Hurricane Response Center available on its website that also provides links to relevant information, including tips for those impacted by the storm.  Guidance is available related to livestock, pets, food, fuel, crops and other important information, such as:

0/12/2018 Commissioner Black Gets First Glimpse of Hurricane Michael’s Damage

10/12/2018 Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool

10/11/2018 Hurricane Michael Devastates Georgia’s Agricultural Industry

10/10/2018 Disaster Assistance Fact Sheet

10/10/2018 Press Release: Georgia Department of Agriculture Responds to Threat of Hurricane Michael

10/10/2018 Hurricane Michael: Animal Interstate Movement Requirements for Entry into Georgia from Florida are Temporarily Suspended UPDATED!

10/09/2018 Georgia National Fair Press Release: Fair Closed Wednesday October 10th, 2018

10/09/2018 Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 counties in Georgia

Resources for Animal Food Producers in Flooded Areas of Gulf Coast

Like South Carolina, Georgia  and Florida temporarily suspended their interstate importation requirements for the transportation of animals.

Florida

Florida, with its long history of exemplary emergency preparedness and response, continues to implement those plans, including “[s]upporting pet-friendly shelters, agricultural producers, and local communities with various needs for supplies, transportation and staffing.”

North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, N.C. State University Cooperative Extension and N.C. Cattlemen’s Association issued a warning on Sept. 22, 2018 to its constituents that “an individual was offering operational recovery assistance to producers with the claim that he had been authorized by the South Carolina state government. A background check on this individual proved this to be false.”

We are asking that if you are contacted by organizations or individuals that you do not know and you have a concern about their legitimacy, to please get the name of the individual/team, phone numbers, emails, license plate numbers, etc. and share that with your county Emergency Management Services.

USDA

A long-time partner with state departments of agriculture in emergency response, USDA provides resources and information on its website.  Its role  is “to provide food, emergency housing, community, as well as farmer and rancher assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by severe storms and flooding . . . [and] to work with states affected by severe storms and flooding regarding requests for various assistance, waivers and flexibilities in administering federal nutrition assistance programs.”  USDA also provides link to FEMA’s app for shelter and related information, as well as disaster assistance programs for farmers.

FDA

FDA, concerned about contamination of crops from floodwaters, provides relevant guidance on its website, “Crops Harvested from Flooded Fields Intended for Animal Food: Questions and Answers.”  In some cases, and with specific FDA approval, crops intended for human consumption can be used for animal feed.

The FDA will work with producers to consider requests to recondition an adulterated crop into animal food on a case-by-case basis. FDA’s compliance guide (CPG 675.200) provides a step-by-step process for reconditioning requests.

AVMA

The AVMA helps veterinarian impacted by disasters and provides emergency preparedness guidance on its website.

Hopefully, everyone impacted by these recent storms will find these and other resources helpful as they rebuild their properties, care for their animals, and recover.

Equine herpes virus-1, a sometimes deadly virus that can cause myeloencephalopathy in some infected horses (Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy or EHM), has surfaced at one horse farm in Union County, NJ, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture on March 20, 2018 and in theHORSE on March 21, 2018.

The second horse had an elevated temperature and was showing respiratory signs, but no neurological signs were noted by the attending veterinarian.

The first horse was moved into the isolation barn on the property last week and the property was placed under quarantine. The finding of another positive horse has reset the quarantine clock and will delay the release date another three days. These are the first reported EHV-1 cases in New Jersey in 2018.

As reported by the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, designated as a World Reference Center for EHV-1 and EHV-4:

Over the past decade there has been an unexpected increase in equine herpesvirus neurologic disease (equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy [EHM]) incidence. Previous research by other scientists suggests a significant percentage of EHM or paralytic herpes outbreaks are caused by a mutant strain. A single mutation has been identified in the gene encoding of the viral replication enzyme, which seems to confer the power of enhanced pathogenicity (a pathogen’s ability to cause disease in an organism) or neurovirulence to such strains.

New Jersey is not a novice in managing EHM outbreaks.  As previously described, New Jersey Department of Agriculture in partnership with the New Jersey Racing Commission, private practitioners, horse trainers, and with assistance from USDA, issued and supervised a quarantine of horses boarding at Monmouth Race Track in October 2006 which lasted two months. See, Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy-A Guide to Effective Response; and Infectious Diseases In Animals And Humans – What Is Your Legal Risk?

USDA publishes “A Guide to Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection” equine_herpesvirus_brochure_2009,  and explains  that “Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) infection in horses can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death, and/or neurologic disease. The neurologic form of EHV-1 is called Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). The virus can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.”

In USDA’s Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy: Mitigation Experiences, Lessons Learned, and Future Needs, in which responders to the Monmouth Race Park quarantine were interviewed (including me):

Dr. Peter Timoney, Professor, University of Kentucky, Gluck Equine Research Center and Chair of the Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee of the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA), pointed out that ‘. . . within the past few years, a mutant of the wild-type of EHV-1 has been identified which evidence would indicate is very frequently associated with outbreaks of EHM. Also, this mutant has been identified among isolates of EHV-1 made prior to 2000. As the distribution of this virus mutant becomes more widespread in the equine population, the frequency and severity of outbreaks of EHM is likely to increase further unless measures to control its spread and occurrence of the disease can be developed.’

In addition to animal health issues, EHM outbreaks can result in lawsuits, as evidenced by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Ass’n v. Alpen House U.L.C., 942 F.Supp.2d 497 (D.N.J. 2013), in which

Racehorse owners and association to which they belonged brought action for strict liability and negligence against owner of training facility that allegedly was source of outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus—Type 1 (EHV–1) that caused racehorses to be quarantined, which prevented them from racing.

Id.  After Alpen House lost its motion for summary judgment, the parties likely settled, but this has not been confirmed.

Research is still underway to develop a vaccine that will protect horses against the neurological form of EHV, and until completed, more outbreaks should be expected.

 

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.

A “Good Samaritan” bill, S 3134, introduced in the New Jersey Senate on May 8, 2017 would “provide immunity from civil liability for veterinarians or emergency responders who assist animals at accident scene or emergency.”  Sister bill A4770 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on May 11, 2017.

Currently veterinarians have immunity for civil damages for rendering emergency care:

Any individual licensed to practice veterinary medicine who, in good faith, renders emergency care to any animal which has, immediately prior to the rendering of such care, been brought to such individual’s attention at or from the scene of an accident or emergency situation or has been discovered by such individual at the scene of an accident or emergency situation shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering the emergency care.  NJSA 45:16-9.11

So what do these newly introduced bills do differently?

First, it seems as if the bill sponsors and oversight from the Office of Legislative Services may have been unaware of the existing provisions for veterinarians, since the introduced bills purport to amend  NJ Rev Stat § 2A:62A-1 (2013) a statute titled “Civil immunity for emergency care” and there is no citation to the above-mentioned statute, part of the NJ Veterinary Medical Practice Act.

The provisions for veterinarians in these newly proposed bills appears redundant to immunity already provided.

However, the bills would expand the immunity to all “emergency responders” defined as “a law enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, paid or volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, emergency, ambulance, or rescue squad association, or any other individual who, in the course of employment, provides medical care or other assistance at the scene of an accident or emergency.”

The actual provisions of the bills is similar to the immunity provided for in the State Veterinary Practice Act for veterinarians, namely:

An emergency responder or veterinarian who in good faith renders emergency care to an animal at the scene of an accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions in rendering the emergency care. Nothing in this section shall exonerate an emergency responder or veterinarian from gross negligence.

It would appear that these bills would provide immunity to emergency responders and veterinarians responding to pets confined in a vehicle during inclement conditions that could be considered emergencies, e.g., excessively high temperatures.

Therefore, while these bills are, in part redundant, they extend immunity to emergency responders and strike an appropriate balance that would benefit pets and their owners.