SACRAMENTO, Calif. — UC Davis veterinarians in a typical year can help 1,000 pets and livestock recover from burns in California wildfires.
Lately, the state’s wildfires have been hurting more pets than the school’s veterinary teams can rescue.
That’s why the UC Davis California Veterinary Emergency Team Program stands to gain $3 million from the new state budget to help it reach more animals in need.
The program will deploy Davis professors and students to disasters while also training volunteers across the state, with the goal of creating a unified disaster response, according to Michael Ziccardi, the director of the One Health Institute and Oiled Wildlife Care Network, who will be leading the program.
“What we want to do is create a large-scale system of all these veterinary professionals that can work together, make sure they have the same training, make sure they’re working from the same protocols,” Ziccardi said, “so that all responders will be following the same playbook, no matter if the disaster is in Bodega Bay or in Bakersfield.”
California twice in the past five years called on out-of-state support from Texas A&M University to assist with veterinary response during emergencies.
With the new funding, UC Davis is expected to field its own mobile veterinary team capable of responding to disasters anywhere in the state, according to Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, who wrote a bill to create the program.
“First responders will tell you that this is not just about animals,” Glazer said at a press conference on Monday. “People who have pets or livestock are reluctant to evacuate unless they believe their animals will be safely cared for. That puts the residents at risk, it endangers the rescue personnel, who eventually face even more dangerous situations trying to evacuate those who stayed behind.”
Glazer the state often has failed in the past to assist homeowners with animal evacuations in disasters. It can be a difficult task in rural areas, where large ranches may have many animals that need assistance.
“We have a new reality in our world, with more prolific wildfires and other disasters and we have to step up our response in accordance with that need,” Glazer said.
Vacaville resident Linda Kearney relied on UC Davis veterinarians in August 2020, when the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned down her ranch. She needed help getting her animals to safety, which includes one dog, two goats, two horses and fifteen cats.