UF VETS aids relief efforts in aftermath of Hurricane Matthew
The UF Veterinary Emergency and Treatment Service, the college’s disaster response team, participated in relief efforts during Hurricane Matthew in early October by providing aid, including pet food and supplies to animal shelters and organizations that were charged with helping pet owners affected by the event.
The goods were supplied by PetSmart Charities.
Thirty people, including faculty, staff and students, volunteered their time, talent and efforts to help those in need during the hurricane, said Deb Turcott, chief operating officer for Maddie’s Shelter Medicine at UF. Turcott took an interim lead role in the effort due to the absence of VETS director John Haven, who was on leave during the storm.
The group remained on standby for a full week as the state and other parties assessed the damage Matthew caused. UF VETS was also asked to be on active standby for the states of Georgia and South Carolina in the event the needs experienced by those states outpaced available resources.
“Despite the fact that Matthew was not as severe as anticipated in Florida, there still were humans and animals impacted by the storm,” Turcott said.
UF VETS reached out to PetSmart Charities to inquire about the possibility of donating supplies for animal shelters and organizations who respond directly to pet owners during these types of disasters.
“PetSmart Charities answered the call for help and sent a tractor trailer with more than $70,000 worth of supplies to the college,” Turcott said. “Students, faculty and staff unpacked the tractor trailer and reassembled 30 pallets worth of supplies to transport around the state to help meet the needs of those impacted by the storm.”
Three teams deployed to six different shelters in six counties in Florida to distribute the greatly needed pallets of food, cages and other supplies. This logistical support mission happened while the team was on standby for response to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
The university’s physical plant division and UF IFAS offered support, sharing the equipment needed to transport the supplies around the state.
“I especially want to extend our thanks to them,” Turcott said. “The college’s administration was also highly supportive of the team during this time, and the rallying of willing faculty, staff and students to help was an overwhelming example of how this college can come together when called upon.”
Participants in UF VETS are students, faculty, residents and staff who have received training in disaster response through FEMA and/or the shelter medicine program at the college, in addition to faculty who receive just-in-time training so they may respond, Turcott said.
UF VETS is a mandatory responder when tasked to do so by the state.