Equine Health Update EHU Vol 20 Issue 02 - Page 37

International News | EQUINE Floodwaters reached hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing 30,000 people and prompting more than 17,000 rescues. Early state and federal disaster declarations in the anticipated impact zone were a godsend, making resources available for evacuation and response activities even as the storm approached. Ultimately, 41 counties were included in disaster declarations due to storm damage. These 41 counties are home to 1.6 million cattle and 88,000 horses, donkeys, and mules. While there have been major floods in portions of this area in recent years, nothing could prepare livestock owners and emergency responders for a 1,000-year event such as this. Livestock owners moved their animals to what should have been safe havens, only to have them threatened again as floodwaters continued to rise over the following days. Emergency situations forced some livestock owners to make difficult choices, but there is at least one shining example of how pre-planning paid dividends. Parson’s Mounted Calvary Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University and the Houston Police Department Mounted Unit exercised a standing arrangement where the Houston Police train Calvary Corps horses in crowd control techniques and in exchange the Corps shelters police horses in an evacuation event such as Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is the primary coordinating agency for animal response operations related to non-disease animal related incidents and the Emergency Support Function (ESF)- 11 animal-related actions. TAHC coordinated the efforts of 36 different agencies and organizations during Hurricane Harvey. More than 700 calls were received on the Harvey Hotline, and staff worked tirelessly to match resources with needs. Lists of pre-arranged livestock evacuation facilities were provided to callers through information centers. With the governor’s approval, TAHC waived requirements for a current negative EIA test on evacuated horses. National Veterinary Services Laboratory quickly developed guidelines allowing approved EIA laboratories to conduct tests at shelters to mitigate disease transmission risk. The most common maladies encountered were lower extremity skin injuries due to horses standing in water for extended periods and colic most likely due to changes in diet. The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) deployed in five locations to triage, treat, and send animals to shelters or referral clinics still in operation. To manage information and utilize services of veterinarians and technicians volunteering from Texas and across the United States, a database was created and shared with responding entities. The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners issued temporary licenses to veterinarians assisting from other states. Managing offers from volunteers and donations were challenges in themselves. As conditions allowed, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agents and other responders established thirteen livestock supply points in stricken areas, distributing generously donated livestock feed and supplies. USDA Wildlife Services aircraft pilots, along with volunteers in airboats, gathered coordinates on marooned livestock. National Guard helicopters, made available after human rescue missions were completed, dropped a total of 117 tons of hay to stranded livestock. More hay was delivered by airboats and high profile vehicles. The real story of Hurricane Harvey is how owners took responsibility for their own livestock and, when conditions became extreme, how neighbors and strangers alike pulled together to help anyone in need. There were many, many more significant response efforts than are mentioned here. TAHC is honored to have been a part of this outstanding combined effort in • Volume 20 Issue 2 | July 2018 • 37