May 8, 2019 – The University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (UF VETS) today unveiled its newest disaster response vehicle—a 44-foot mobile command and infrastructure support truck and trailer, funded by grants totaling $150,000 from the Banfield Foundation and PetSmart Charities.
UF VETS’ newest vehicle will enable veterinary emergency responders to deploy after a natural disaster and provide much-needed veterinary care in hard-hit areas across the state and region. The truck will also serve as a communications hub to interact with local emergency operation centers, shelters, and state agencies. The UF VETS team provides medical care for large and small animals, performing technical rescues and logistical support to veterinary clinics and other response teams, in addition to providing initial assessments of impacted areas.
“Disaster relief is a key component of the Banfield Foundation, and we are humbled to support the important work of first responders as they offer help and hope to communities in need,” said Kim Van Syoc, executive director of the Banfield Foundation. “Veterinary professionals who respond during natural disasters are truly inspiring—we hope this new vehicle improves not only the response process, but also the lives of those doing the lifesaving work.”
As one of the oldest and largest animal disaster response teams in the country, UF VETS has responded to hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and animal hoarding situations—and is a core resource for the Florida State Agricultural Response Team, part of the state veterinarian’s office in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services. The team includes veterinary medical students in training and preparedness exercises from day one, providing them with real-life experiences like deployments, including the team’s last mission to Key West during Hurricane Irma.
“We’re grateful for the support of the Banfield Foundation and PetSmart Charities, as this one-of-a-kind emergency response vehicle enables our team of volunteers and veterinary emergency responders to help make a measurable difference to families and pets affected by natural disasters,” said Larry Garcia, DVM, a clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, and the UF VETS team’s medical director. “This life-saving addition to our UF VETS fleet allows us to expand our reach throughout Florida, and to affected communities in surrounding states like South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. Most importantly, we’ll be able to help even more families and their pets.”
As part of its ongoing efforts, the foundation also provides financial support to communities in need through its Disaster Relief Grants—a program that provides funding to nonprofit animal welfare organizations and local or state governments whose communities have been impacted by disasters. The recent donation to the University of Florida is the third disaster response vehicle the foundation is currently funding through grants around the country. Other vehicles include a 54-kennel mobile pet shelter with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and a custom-built, fully equipped response vehicle for Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Emergency Team.
For more information on disaster preparedness, visit BanfieldFoundation.org/disaster. For additional information about the Banfield Foundation and its grant programs, visit BanfieldFoundation.org.