The Creation of UF VETS
In 2004, a wave of hurricanes swept the state of Florida. As the land grant institution for the state and the lone college of veterinarian medicine, the University of Florida was called on by the governor to provide veterinary disaster response to aid communities whose infrastructure was deeply disrupted by these storms. Ad-hoc teams were created and tasked with missions for Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma brought more need for response. The frequency and severity of the storms, particularly the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina, brought about changes in legislation and a desire at local, state, and federal levels to increase preparedness for animals in disasters. The UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service was officially established and became a founding member of the Florida State Agricultural Response Team.
Early Non-Hurricane Responses
In 2006, South Florida experienced an outbreak of the equine herpes virus, and UF VETS was called to provide veterinary support.
In 2007, the UF VETS team aided in the evacuation of animals from the Bugaboo Fires of North Florida.
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, UF VETS provided veterinary medical teams to aid with animal hoarding cases in Hendry, Sumter, and Alachua counties.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010 created a significant need in the Florida Panhandle. UF VETS provided rotating teams for several months to provide transport and care for birds and wildlife impacted by this man-made disaster.
The Return of Hurricane Deployments
Hurricane Matthew struck the state of Florida in 2016. The UF VETS team provided logistical support and delivered supplies to shelters, rescues, and veterinary clinics throughout Northeast Florida.
The largest deployment of the UF VETS team to date occurred in 2017 during Hurricane Irma. A team of 11 was deployed to provide self-sustained veterinary medical care. The team provided assessments and distributed pet food for animal care facilities in Ocala, throughout central Florida, and the Florida Keys. A field hospital was established in Key West where the team provided triage and basic emergency care for animals impacted by the storm until local veterinarians could resume practice.
Meanwhile, other members of the UF VETS team responded in Alachua to a 3-day technical rescue effort for five horses trapped in floodwaters following the storm. All horses were ultimately able to be removed from the property and transported to the UF Large Animal Hospital for care.
Dixie County Canine Hoarding Case – 2020
In 2020, 140 dogs were seized from a home in Dixie County, Florida. UF VETS provided a small support team to aid the Humane Society of the United States and Red Rover with medical care of the seized dogs.
Hurricane Ian – 2022
In October of 2022, when major Hurricane Ian shut down veterinary infrastructure in southwest Florida, the team staged our largest field hospital to date. With over 40 volunteers serving a 10-day deployment, the team treated more than 400 patients. Learn more about our Hurricane Ian response by clicking here.
UF VETS is ready to respond to man-made and natural disasters impacting the state of Florida. We respond when assigned a mission through Emergency Support Function-17. For more information, visit www.flsart.org.