Normalcy returns to Queensland veterinary school after epic flooding

Most pets reclaimed by families

February 17, 2011 (published)
By Phyllis DeGioia

Some of their owners did not survive, but most of the pets that landed at the University of Queensland’s Veterinary Medical Centre during recent ruinous floods have been joyfully reunited with their families, according to Dr. Bob Doneley, who runs the university’s small-animal hospital.

The animals whose families perished are being cared for in foster homes, as are some whose families aren’t quite ready to take them.

“Some are still with foster care until the owners can get back on their feet,” Doneley said in an interview by e-mail.

At the peak, the hospital housed 35 dogs, 20 cats and 25 birds, some of which had severe injuries. Only one veterinarian, one nurse and approximately 20 volunteers were there to care for them.

The floods, which began on Christmas Eve and continued for weeks, caused 22 confirmed deaths and some $600 million in agriculture production losses alone, according to a status report by Lloyd’s, the insurance market based in England.

Lloyd’s notes that “livestock losses have been small” but that doesn’t mean they were negligible.

“Some horrific stories about stock losses have come out, with many horses killed or euthanised after having been swept away,” Doneley reported. “The dogs and cats are relatively unscathed compared to the horses.”

In individual cases, the flooding was life-altering. Doneley knows of two veterinarians who lost their practices, and another whose house was ruined.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Benevolent Fund is assisting those veterinarians and others harmed by the floods. Donations may be made by contacting the association by telephone or e-mail.

“Any assistance would be greatly appreciated,” Doneley said.

Meanwhile, floodwaters have receded and life is returning to some semblance of normality, Doneley said. Road repairs are still a major issue, and occasional long traffic delays occur because entire sections of roads must be resurfaced.

On Feb. 3, not even a month after the flooding, Cyclone Yasi ripped into northern Queensland. The veterinary school was fortunate, being 1000 kilometers (620 miles) from where the category-five cyclone struck.

The loss of life was less severe than in the floods, with one death attributed to the storm. Doneley said he believes that people in northern Queensland are used to cyclones, and heeded the warnings.

“Apparently, the emergency services and media really emphasised the destructiveness of the storm and that convinced people to stay inside and keep their heads down,” he said.

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