State Exceeds 1,000 Credentialed Animal Health Care Workers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee now has more than 1,000 persons trained and registered to give aid to animals during times of emergencies. Animal health officials with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) announced that the state reached the milestone in November.
The initiative is expected to help state and local emergency officials to be more responsive to animal needs and to reduce unnecessary animal and human suffering during a disaster.
In February 2003, TDA began working with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) to identify, train and issue credentials to animal care workers who can be called upon during times of disasters and emergencies.
“Due to heightened bio-security concerns, animal disease outbreaks in other countries and the need to be better prepared, we began working on state animal emergency planning even before 9/11,” said State Veterinarian Ron Wilson. “Hurricane Katrina further emphasized the need for a ready source of identifiable, qualified individuals at the local level who can be called upon in times of need.
“We’ve been pleased with the response to our workshops and the number of individuals who are now credentialed to help with animal care in an emergency. We feel much more confident in our ability to effectively respond when needed.”
According to Dr. Bob Linnabary, TDA’s animal emergency coordinator, state and local resources were immediately strained as waves of Gulf Coast evacuees, many with pets in tow, poured into Tennessee following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. More than 500 dogs and cats as well as a variety of other small and large animals were cared for by groups of local volunteers, organized into Disaster Animal Response Teams or DARTs. Initially, only a handful of DARTs were in existence, but now many more have been organized as part of a larger state plan to respond to potential animal emergencies.
Today, 90 counties in Tennessee have either formed or are in the process of forming a local DART made up of credentialed individuals. Credentialing is important, says Linnabary, because it provides emergency responders and leadership a method for quickly identifying and activating qualified animal care workers. “Having trained persons available to provide animal care is important not only to animals, but to safety of the public.”
The credentialing program was established as part of Emergency Support Function 16 (ESF 16) which is the state’s plan, developed by the Agriculture Department and TEMA, to specifically
deal with animal related emergencies in the state. ESF 16 establishes procedures to coordinate local and state resources to provide care and housing for companion animals and livestock during manmade or natural disasters and contagious animal disease outbreaks.
Of the 1,008 individuals credentialed by the TDA, 32 percent are veterinarians, 31 percent are volunteers ranging from animal control officers to pet and livestock owners, 13 percent are University of Tennessee Extension personnel, 12 percent are animal health technicians, and 12 percent are all-purpose workers. Although there is a concentration of credentialed persons in areas of high population, nearly every county in Tennessee now has credentialed personnel.
TDA will be offering additional workshops in the spring. Dates and locations of workshops will be announced early next year. Credentialing workshops are open to anyone with experience or an interest in assisting the care of animals. The workshops will identify individuals having standardized training in emergency management and who are competent to work with specific species of animals. The workshops will also offer an overview of TEMA, the state’s animal care and housing emergency plan, principles in bio-security, foreign animal and emerging diseases and procedures for reporting of these diseases.
The six-hour workshops are free, but individuals must have completed Incident Command System (ICS) Courses 100 and 200, and the National Incident Management (NIMS) Course, IS-700. These courses are offered free online at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine’s Web site at www.vet.utk.edu, then click “Veterinary Tools.” Courses are also available through local and state emergency management agencies, and a course CD is available by calling the State Veterinarian’s office at (615) 837-5120. A copy of a “Certificate of Completion” must be presented at workshops.
For more information about animal care credentialing workshops or state animal emergency planning contact Linnabary at (615) 837-5120 or email Robert.Linnabary@state.tn.us. Or, visit TDA online at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture and click on the “Animal Health” link for DART information.