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Are the Animals in Your Community Prepared for a Disaster


In May 1995, Indiana became the first state in the nation to recognize a veterinary response network as part of the state's official emergency management plan for floods, tornadoes and other large-scale disasters. What began as the SAVE (State Annex for Veterinary Emergencies) program has evolved to today's VMRC/ASERT. This program is managed by the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. VMRC/ASERT is comprised of state, federal and private animal health and care experts and others who are willing to respond to meet the needs of animals and their owners in governor-declared disaster situations.

Volunteer responders perform a variety of necessary tasks, including:

  • Rescue and capture stranded or abandoned animals;

  • Treat and triage injured animals;

  • Feed and house, temporarily, displaced animals; and

  • Identify and reunite animals separated from their owners.

Local Preparedness

Because not every disaster is large enough to earn a governor's declaration, readiness and planning at the local level is essential. Before the state will declare a disaster, all essential local resources must be exhausted. Likewise, before a federal declaration can be made, state resources must be expended. By preparing locally, members of a community can respond to all situations, even when state resources are not yet available.

BOAH encourages communities to develop local, trained animal response teams to coordinate efforts during an emergency. Individuals with experience, expertise and/or an interest in assisting animals in disaster situations should contact the county emergency management agency to discuss preparedness plans. Local Purdue Extension Service educators are also another excellent source of information.

Emergency managers in many Indiana counties are working to incorporate a local animal care plan into local response protocols, to bring their counties into alignment with the state's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. In many cases, those local emergency managers are seeking volunteers to be part of the planning and/or response process.

Local plans are based on Indiana's statewide plan. Because every county has its own set of risks and susceptible populations, each needs its own customized emergency plan. The animal-oriented section of the plan is no different. Rural areas, where livestock is common, have very different needs compared to urban and suburban regions. BOAH staff are available to assist in the local planning process to ensure a workable plan is adopted.

BOAH offers a one-day basic awareness class, "Animal Issues in Disasters". Agency staff will conduct the class on-site, at no charge, when at least 25 participants are pre-registered.

To make the class more accessible, the agency is working to convert the class to an online, independent study format. Questions about the class may be directed to:

The Local Planning Guide Workbook should be completed in coordination with local emergency managers. It provides a starting point to answer key questions about what needs to be done, who needs to complete each task and how activities will be accomplished as a plan relates to animal populations in a community.

Education and Awareness

Public education and awareness helps animal owners understand that they bear the ultimate responsibility for caring for their pets and livestock before, during and after a disaster.

Local animal-oriented businesses and service groups are ideal avenues for communicating this message to the animal-owning public. Information and resources for educating the public is available by contacting the Board of Animal Health at