Behind the FVMA’s Hurricane Ian relief efforts
Hurricane Ian uprooted many across Florida and left them without basic necessities, impacting animals, their owners and the veterinary professionals who help care for them. The Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA) and its partners have spent the weeks since the storm bringing boots-on-the-ground and financial aid to affected regions to help treat animals and support veterinarians.
Earlier this year, the FVMA, alongside the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (UFCVM), redeveloped a new system to organize and recruit Florida Veterinary Corps volunteers. In times of crisis, the State of Florida uses the database of volunteers to dispatch disaster-trained veterinarians to impacted areas.
FVMA Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair Dr. Terry Clekis helped delegate and organize volunteers and supplies. With the assistance of Dr. Clekis, the Florida Veterinary Corps deployed 86 individuals across impacted regions. The Florida Veterinary Technician Association provided veterinary technicians across the same regions to support animals and veterinarians.
“I was struck by the amount of help veterinarians and those associated with the industry offered,” Dr. Clekis says. “It was almost hard to delegate due to the volume of support we received.”
The FVMA, in partnership with UFCVM, facilitated volunteers for its Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) Team, a 12-person group of faculty veterinarians, technical staff and students deployed by the FDACS to support natural disaster recovery. Stationed at the Terry Park Sports Complex in Fort Meyers, Fla., for 10 days, 16 volunteer veterinarians joined the VETS team and provided support to over 400 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, bearded dragons, a potbellied pig and a goat.
“We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all who donated supplies and their time in support of the University of Florida VETS Team’s mission to help animals and people impacted by Hurricane Ian,” says Dr. Lawrence Garcia, the VETS Team medical director.
The FVMA also coordinated volunteer assistance for Humane Society International, which provided veterinary care for a total of 881 patients at the Mid County Regional Library parking lot in Charlotte County.
“The support from the Florida veterinary community was truly remarkable, and we hope that we were able to successfully provide the interim veterinary care that was needed until normal veterinary services resume in the county,” says Dr. Katherine Polak, vice president of companion animals and engagement at Humane Society International.
In addition to these efforts, FVMA staff called each FVMA member in heavily impacted regions to discern aid needs and discuss support opportunities.
“The FVMA headquarters acted as a data collection center to find out which of our members needed help. We then sent this information to the Veterinary Corps members, who acted quickly in assisting with urgent issues that were reported. I am proud of the staff for coming together at a time when so many of our members needed help,” says FVMA Executive Director Jim Naugle. “It was a rewarding experience for all of us.”
The FVMA also established the FVMA Foundation Hurricane Ian Relief & Recovery Fund within 24 hours of the storm’s landfall. Powered by $20,000 in donations, the fund is dedicated to assisting veterinarians who incurred out-of-pocket expenses due to storm-induced clinic damage or from providing medical care, food, or shelter to animals affected by the storm. All Florida veterinarians can apply for Hurricane Ian aid via the FVMA’s online form: