UT veterinary college assists animals evacuating Hurricane Florence

Local News

In dire emergencies like Hurricane Florence we make safety plans for ourselves, our family, our home and we cannot forget our animals. 

As local animal shelters and hospitals become inundated with the influx of animals at the time of evacuation the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine is once again serving as a resource hub for hte community, as well as the state of Tennessee’s only level one trauma for small animals. 

“They’re left completely helpless in these situations, often left to fend for themselves,” says UTCVM shelter veterinarian Dr. Becky DeBolt. “They’ll tether them outside in hopes of keeping them near their house, but of course if they’re tethered they can’t get away from the rising water.”

Animal owners are being urged to make plans, before Florence makes landfall, to take their animals with them. 

After Hurricane Katrina and Floyd before that, who can forget the heartbreaking images of animals left behind? 

“We are right in the path of safety. We’re right on the edge of the safety zone for Florence really,” said Dr. DeBolt. 

The American Veterinarian Medical Association is putting out these tips to prepare in the event of a disaster when Florence makes landfall. 

“Just as hard as it is with the humans that we inevitably lose in a disaster too there are always animals and pets who are affected and lose their lives,” Dr. DeBolt explains. “And so the more we can learn from our previous mistakes or lack of planning and lack of preparation then hopefully we’ll lower that number with each disaster and bring more through it.” 

Many animals who manage to survive get separated from their owners. They sometimes never reunite and end up scattered around the country like we saw in East Tennessee after Hurricane Irma. 

“Katrina was a really big awakening. Rescuers were still finding animals in houses alive about a month after the storm had passed, and plenty who weren’t alive of course,” said Dr. DeBolt. 

Just as the nation saw with Hurricane Harvey, we need to think of our larger animals as well. 

 “We often serve as a central area of contact for horse owners and owners of other large animals,” says UTCVM Equine Veterinarian, Dr. Carla Sommardahl. 

Tennessee’s state veterinarian has temporarily suspended health certificate requirements for animals being evacuated from hurricane-affected states into Tennessee. 

As UTCVM continues to prepare for Florence, the school has also compiled a list of farms, private and public, taking in evacuated horses. To fill out the Emergency Transport and Lodging List form, click here

For a list of pet-friendly hotels, boarding facilities and other resources UTCVM has compiled, click here.

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