LSART to assess damages before taking on new volunteers

Aide workers should wait, officials say; supply donations not needed at press time

September 2, 2008 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

New Orleans — As Hurricane Gustav weakens to a tropical depression, the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) requests that veterinary volunteers stand by as the group assesses damages. 

The request contrasts an earlier public notice put out by the Louisiana State Veterinarian’s office, which cited a need for six veterinarians to help with the storm’s cleanup efforts. Supply donations also are not needed, LSART officials say, although with area communication lines down, the VIN News Service could not obtain outside verification of that by press time.  

In the meantime, LSART officials ask that potential aid workers fill out the necessary volunteer paperwork with the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine (LBVM) at LBVM leaders suspended licensing rules for out-of-state veterinarians and technicians after Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on Aug. 28. Monetary donations can be made to the Dr. Walter J. Ernst, Jr. Veterinary Memorial Foundation, officials add. Visit for more information.

“If you get the paperwork started, you can come quicker if we need you,” an LSART member says.

State officials’ seemingly subdued reaction to Gustav reflects its deflated status as a tropical depression after initially slamming the Gulf Coast shoreline yesterday as a Category Two hurricane, hitting New Orleans and its surrounding areas before quickly losing steam. 

An estimated 2 million people fled Gustav’s advance following the mandatory evacuation of an area still reeling from devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, yet tallies on displaced pets appear minute in contrast to the untold numbers of animals abandoned in the 2005 storm’s aftermath. The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken in animals as well as shelters in Dallas and other areas. On Sunday, the University of Tennessee’s Disaster Animal Response Team, part of the veterinary college, reportedly waited at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport for animal refugees, although no pets arrived at the scene. Louisiana State University’s veterinary school, which closed on Wednesday, temporarily housed thousands of displaced animals following Hurricane Katrina but issued a Web site notice that the institution would not do the same for Gustav evacuees’ pets.

Phone lines at Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association’s in Baton Rouge office were not functioning at press time, and a Baton Rouge-area VIN member has issued reports of downed trees and debris as well as limited power and gas supplies. The American Veterinary Medical Association knew of no veterinary practices severely damaged at press time.

For veterinarian volunteers and practices directly affected, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation offers the possibility of grant reimbursement for some storm-associated expenses. Contact Monique Buonincontro, AVMF grants coordinator, at (800) 248-2862 ext. 6691 or

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