At the request of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ agricultural response team, the UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service deployed to Fort Myers on October 3 and remained for 10 days, treating more than 400 animals in need of care in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
It was the UF VETS team’s largest deployment since the group’s inception in 2004.
Based at the Terry Park Sports Complex in Lee County, the team primarily performed health assessments and triaged animals in need of care. While most of the animals seen were dogs and cats, the team also cared for a rabbit, a couple of bearded dragons and several goats, with one goat even receiving a blood transfusion.
Many of the animals seen had gastrointestinal or dermatological issues related to or exacerbated by the storm, or stress associated with the storm and its aftereffects. Some trauma patients were seen as well, including a dog treated for alligator bite wounds. Several kittens that had been found after the storm were brought in for assessments by area residents who hoped to adopt or find homes for them.
After the group returned to Gainesville, UF VETS’ medical director, Dr. Larry Garcia, sent an email thanking faculty, house officers, veterinary technicians, veterinary students and support personnel who made the mission a success.
“For those of you who stayed behind, we thank you for your extra efforts in filling our absences,” he said.
Five veterinarians, seven veterinary technicians, three veterinary students and six support personnel participated in the team from UF. Additionally, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and the Florida Veterinary Technicians Association provided 16 volunteer veterinarians and 20 volunteer veterinary technicians from around the state in order to expand the team’s bandwidth and help them meet the needs of the Ft. Myers community.
“Though it can be hard to find bright spots in such difficult times, we are honored our longstanding partnership with the University of Florida allowed us to provide support to Floridians and their animals in a time of need,” said FVMA’s executive director, Jim Naugle.
He noted that the FVMA and the college have been partners for much of their history, with the FVMA most recently providing scholarships to UF veterinary students and volunteer opportunities at its small animal and equine conferences.
“It was truly an honor to work alongside such an amazing group of people,” Garcia said.
A bunk trailer provided to the college in 2019 through a grant from PetSmart Charities and the Banfield Foundation was used to house team members during their stay in Fort Myers. Four additional trucks were driven down to provide supplies and food to support the effort.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to UF VETS’ current and future efforts can do so at this link: at https://bit.ly/3e103f3.
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