Pet rescues undertaken in flooded Queensland

Veterinary school becomes ad hoc shelter

January 17, 2011 (published)
By Phyllis DeGioia

In the midst of the severely flooded area in Australia stands the veterinary school at the University of Queensland, where Bob Doneley, DVM, struggles to care for the injured and lost animals who have turned the school’s Veterinary Medical Centre into a shelter.

“We were cut off, but the animals here did not need to be evacuated,” said Doneley in an e-mail interview Friday with the Veterinary Information Network News Service. “For the first two days after the flood we were quiet, but then the police allowed animal management into Grantham to start rescuing animals. Those animals were brought here, as we have the largest facility for holding them in the area.”

The hospital is at capacity.

The buildings in the veterinary school were not damaged. Doneley believes the school will be unaffected in the long term by the floods, although there was some damage caused by rain and loss of power that will likely cause short-term problems.

Doneley and his staff were described in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald as transforming the clinic into a Noah's Ark. The article mentions the reunion of one family and their three pets at the makeshift shelter. They had been separated after being evacuated by helicopter.

As of Saturday, Doneley said, there had been six “very tearful” reunions of families and pets.

Water has been cut off to most of the campus to preserve water for the veterinary clinic and a few essential buildings.

“We should have enough water for a few more days. The Australian army is running water trucks up and down the highway, so everything should be fine,” Doneley said.

Severe flooding began on December 24 in eastern Australia, and continued throughout the region until last week. The event is one of the worst natural disasters in decades in Australia. About 70 cities were affected.

As to how his colleagues are faring, Doneley can only hazard a guess.

“I can't speak about Brisbane,” he said. Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, is approximately 80 miles from the veterinary school in Gatton. “I am sure practices down there may have been inundated. Here in the Lockyer Valley I am aware of two practices going under (water). I think all vets here have been affected — they have possibly lost friends and neighbours, have flood damage to their houses, have flood damage to their friends' houses. One equine vet I know has been working nearly around-the-clock rescuing horses, but has had to euthanise a large number. I'm sure that will haunt her for a long time.”

At this stage of the natural disaster, Doneley could think of little that other veterinarians can do to help, aside from offering well wishes and sending financial donations.

“Moral support and encouragement is essential,” Doneley said. “(Soon) we will know more about what is really needed for our colleagues.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSCPA) Queensland is asking for financial donations that can be used to purchase pet, livestock and wildlife supplies. According to their website, they prefer financial donations because of the logistics involved in dropping off supplies. A donation of $2,000 can rent a helicopter to support rescue efforts, while $25 can buy a pet food pack.

Doneley has learned some of the same basic lessons in humanity as did the veterinarians assisting after Hurricane Katrina struck the United States in 2005.

“What I have learnt from this is how much impact little things can have on people,” said Doneley. “Providing food, water, shelter, a bath and treatment for someone's pet — when they have lost their house and their friends — is a great feeling. To see them reunited is one of the most worthwhile things I have done in my career.”

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