Disaster Response


The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine is a lead member of the Florida State Agriculture Response Team (SART). As a “quick strike” resource, the college has been tasked to assist the state in response to animal and agricultural disasters whenever an emergency has been officially declared by the state or federal government. The team is also deployable to states as far away as Texas and Virginia through EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact).

In partnership with the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the college created the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) in order to meet the key objectives of:

1) Providing a quick assessment of the veterinary infrastructure.

2) Assisting operational practices with logistical support and mutual aid.

3) Establishing a self-contained veterinary care triage and aid station.

4) Providing advanced technical rescue for large and small animals.

5) Providing training in technical rescues and building local capacity in preparation for disasters.

The VETS team was the result of several ad hoc missions assigned to the veterinary college during the 2004 hurricane season. The team is an “all hazards, all animals, all the time” disaster response unit composed of volunteer veterinarians, technicians and students who are based at the college. The team has assisted in hurricanes, hoarding cases, technical rescues and disease outbreaks.

VETS Team Deployments:

  • Hurricane Charley – 2004
  • Hurricane Frances – 2004
  • Hurricane Jeanne – 2004
  • Hurricane Wilma – 2005
  • Equine Herpes – South Florida – 2006
  • BugaBoo Fires – North Florida – 2007
  • Calf Technical Rescue – Marion County – 2008
  • Animal Impoundment – Hendry County – 2009
  • Calf Technical Rescue – Levy County – 2010
  • Canine Emergency Shelter – Sumter County – 2010
  • Cat Hoarding Operation – High Springs, FL – 2011
  • Horse Mud Rescue – Alachua County – 2011
  • Cat Hoarding Operation – High Springs, FL – 2011
  • Springer Spaniel Rescue – Gainesville, Florida – 2012
  • Horse Swale Rescue – Alachua County – 2012
  • Rottweiler Puppy Well Rescue – O’Brien, Florida – 2014
  • Two-day Old Calf Sink Hole Rescue – Newberry, FL – 2014
  • Three-day Old Calf Sink Hole Rescue – Newberry, FL – 2016
  • Horse Septic Tank Rescue – Flagler County, FL – 2016
  • Pug Dog Sink Hole Rescue – Gilchrist County, FL – 2017
  • Cow in Mud Rescue – Alachua County, FL –  2017
  • Hurricane Irma Deployment – Key West, FL – 2017
  • Five Horse River Rescue – Hurricane Irma – High Springs, FL – 2017

The team is capable of deploying up to forty team members and is self-contained for food, fuel and medical supplies – enough to last several days.

The VETS team equipment and training has been funded primarily through grants and donations. For more information, please contact John Haven, CVM director and VETS team leader, at 352-294-4254. CLICK HERE TO MAKE YOUR DONATION TO SUPPORT THE VETS TEAM!

Rescued horse

Midnight, who was rescued from the mud by a combined team of Alachua Sheriff County deputies, UF VETS team members, Payne’s Prairie Park officers, and local veterinarians on Dec 30, 2011, had a reunion with some of those who came to his aid at the “Climb for the Cure Cancer Foundation” trail ride, sponsored by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department. From left to right, Deputy Perry Koon, Sheriff Sadie Darnell, ”Nugget”, Deputy Danny Buckley, owner John Bland, “Midnight”, and UF team leader John Haven.