Health & Environment

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team Returns From Deployment To East Texas

Faculty, staff and students provide critical aid and compassion in wake of devastating storms.
By Rachel Knight, Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences May 24, 2024

A member of the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team holds a dog on an exam table.
The Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team examined about 75 animals during a deployment to flooded communities in East Texas.

Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) has returned to Bryan-College Station after serving their fellow Texans for eight days in response to the historic flooding seen throughout the eastern portion of the state.

The team deployed to Coldspring, Texas, on May 15 after the devastating storms that rounded out a month of unprecedented rainfall and river flooding in the area. 

More than 60 dogs and about 15 cats were seen throughout the deployment. The VET helped support the animals and their families who lost their homes to the extreme weather conditions by providing shelter support for the animals that included vaccinations, deworming, flea and tick treatment, and treatment for skin conditions and other health issues related to being in flood waters. 

“The VET members and students who deployed with us to Coldspring have been inspirational,” said Dr. Deb Zoran, VET director. “Their willingness to help people and their animals in a time of tremendous loss and very challenging circumstances and their desire to help improve the situation for those they’re serving represents the selfless service we pride ourselves on as Aggies. It’s been an honor to serve with each of them and a joy to watch them work in some challenging conditions.” 

In addition to providing critical medical support at a shelter housing both people and animals for the last four weeks, the VET brought a compassion to the shelter that was appreciated by both the animals they cared for and their owners.

“One of our roles when supporting a shelter during disaster response is making the animals in our care as comfortable as possible,” Zoran said. “We do this by treating the ailments they may have developed during the disaster, ensuring their exercise and dietary needs are met, and reducing their anxieties through the implementation of shelter plans that meet each animal’s needs in the unfamiliar shelter environment.”

Eight students were able to deploy with the VET to Coldspring throughout the week as part of the fourth-year clinical rotation in disaster response offered by the VET. Morgan McCord, a student who deployed with the team, said the experience gave her a new perspective on her role in the community as a veterinarian. 

“On our first day, we spoke with a woman who had five dogs staying at the shelter. Her home was destroyed in the first round of flooding,” McCord said. “She has no home to go back to once the shelter is shut down, but she was more worried about where she will move her animals once the animal shelter closes than where she will move herself. 

“Even though these people have so little economic means, their care for their animals is so deep,” she said. “It was very moving to see the change in the dogs’ and cats’ personalities when their owners came to visit and walk them, but it was equally moving to see how much of a calming and centering presence the animals had on their owners. It really showed the benefits of co-location of people and animals during a disaster response.” 

Zoran said recovery efforts will continue even though the shelter that the VET was supporting has closed, but the initial veterinary care provided by the VET has placed the families served in a better position moving forward.

“The VET is committed to serving our fellow Texans and those in need. It was particularly heartwarming to help community leaders that we had previously met in San Jacinto County while helping their team — Michelle Moss, their amazing AgriLife agent; Emmitt Eldridge, the county’s emergency management coordinator; and Sylvia Balew, their region’s Disaster, Assessment and Recovery agent — prepare a disaster plan that includes taking care of the animals,” Zoran said. 

“They are truly servants of their community and it is such a privilege to help them,” she said. “We couldn’t do this work without an amazing set of team members, outstanding students and the support of our generous donors. Thank you to all who contribute as able to our service to those in need.”

Media contact: Jennifer Gauntt, jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu, 979-862-4216

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