Leland vet helps animals after Hurricane Sandy

December 30, 2012
Brunswick Forest

Star News
By: Patrick Terry

In the days after Hurricane Sandy ripped across the East Coast, I was on the phone with a fellow veterinarian on Long Island. My name is Dr. Patrick Terry and I’m a veterinarian at Brunswick Forest Veterinary Hospital in Leland.

He said it was cold and miserable and people were really suffering. He said they just really needed help. When somebody asks for help, what makes the system work is if we go and help them.

So I did.

I am a member of the National Veterinary Response Team, a federal program of about 200 private veterinarians/technicians called in to provide care for animals affected by disasters. After local resources were exhausted by recovery efforts, I was one of nine response team members deployed on Nov. 13 to assist sick and injured animals near New York City.

With Hurricane Sandy bearing down, thousands left their homes to evacuate. But many refused to abandon their pets and stayed. In the storm’s aftermath veterinary clinics were without power, unable to treat the animals whose lives, like their owners’, were left in tatters.

For two weeks, I was the team commander responsible for two mission assignments: community outreach utilizing a mobile clinic in the Rockaways, near the borough of Queens, and later in Coney Island, and providing medical support to a temporary emergency shelter set up by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – disaster relief division.

Despite the cramped quarters, the mobile clinic is equipped with a mini surgical suite, mobile X-ray unit and a pharmacy. During the mission, a veterinarian and veterinary technician treated about 120 animals, most with minor ailments such as skin conditions, eye ulcers from debris and diarrhea.The technician, Laurie McCarter from Massachusetts and Dr. John Mullins from Tennessee, said the patients weren’t just of the four-legged variety. Because some roads were impassable, owners brought their pets in by foot, and they often benefited as much as their animals from the treatment.

The ASPCA shelter in Brooklyn focused on providing free boarding of pets for Hurricane Sandy victims. All kinds of pets were brought to the shelter: dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, and rabbits. My team provided medical examinations, vaccinations, and treatment of various illnesses. At last count, there were more than 200 pets being cared for.

As a member of the National Veterinary Response Team, I have plenty of experience dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes. In 2004, I was deployed to Florida to assist with the recovery after Hurricane Charley. The next year, I spent five weeks in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, working in the humid late-summer heat of the Deep South without air conditioning.

Even after the long days and the emotional toll of assisting with relief efforts post-Sandy, any discomfort I felt pales in the face of bringing relief to people and the pets they love.

I would do it all over again. In the same circumstances, even knowing what I know now, I would jump on it.