Response Partners: Animal Preparation and Response
Natural disasters affect animals as much as they do their human counterparts. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) works with local, state, federal, non-governmental, and sector partners to help plan for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters that affect livestock and companion and service animals.
In order to ensure a Whole Community approach to all-hazards disaster response, the TAHC encourages individuals, local jurisdictions, and other disaster response partners to prepare for handling animal issues in a natural disaster (i.e. fires, floods, extreme weather, and hurricanes) through proactive preparedness.
Local Jurisdiction & Non-Government Organizations
Local jurisdictions (city, county, schools, etc.) should incorporate animals into all disaster plans. Whether preparing to assist with a traffic accident where animals are involved, or dealing with large-scale evacuation and sheltering scenarios, planning for animal issues is important. Local jurisdictions are encouraged to:
- Establish standing Animal Issues Committees (AICs) to help prepare for and manage animal emergency evacuation, transportation, sheltering, and veterinary medical concerns during disasters. Animal Issues Committee Guidance Document (May 2009)
- Conduct community outreach to individual animal owners, animal non-profit and non-governmental organizations in their areas, livestock organizations such as FFA and 4-H groups, and wildlife rehabilitation facilities and zoos to ensure Whole Community preparedness.
- Incorporate animal issues into all relevant emergency plans and gather needed resources
ahead of disasters.
- The State of Texas Animal Issues Committee Plan provides an overarching model for local governments to create an appendix to their local Annex N (Direction and Control) for development of an AIC to deal with particular animal issues in their community. The plan outlines (1) the various types of individuals that might be on an AIC as well as (2) the various topics related to animals that could be of interest to that community.
- The Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) provides additional planning assistance for county officials, local jurisdictions, emergency management teams, shelter operations, and veterinary practices to help build a tailored animal issues plan. To learn more about the VET team and how to request planning assistance visit https://vetmed.tamu.edu/vet/outreach/.
For more guidance on including animals in a local response plan or establishing and enhancing an Animal Issues Committee, contact the TAHC Emergency Management Department by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incident Specific Animal Planning Tools
After a local jurisdiction establishes an AIC and incorporates animal issues in all relevant emergency plans, it is important to identify area specific vulnerabilities (i.e. tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) to create more detailed guidance on the actions taken by local AICs to respond to animal issues during a disaster.
Below please find animal specific issues to consider when planning for different natural disasters:
- Tropical Storms and Hurricanes
- Transportation Incident
- Disaster-Related Carcass Disposal
State Agencies and Organizations
The TAHC is the lead state agency for coordinating animal issues response in disasters. The Agency works closely with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Services, the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) and other Emergency Support Function-11: Agriculture and Natural Resources (ESF-11) partners to ensure state support is available to all local jurisdictions for:
- Policy and planning guidance.
- Resource coordination and support.
- Access to animal and disaster recovery resources and programs.
- State agency field response staff and resources.
The ESF-11 plan is available on the Texas Department of Emergency Management website.
Federal Agencies and Organizations
Both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have a role in animal disaster response. The USDA is the lead federal agency for ESF-11 response during natural disasters and FEMA helps support companion and service animal support. Both agencies provide funding for recovery programs, either directly to individuals or to declared jurisdictions affected by the disaster.
- USDA support and recovery programs focus on livestock and large animals.
- FEMA support and recovery programs are tied to companion and service animals.