Veterinarians protect people and animals

By Peter Kent

HorsesOn January 6, 2005, a Norfolk Southern Railway train missed a switch and ran into a parked locomotive in Graniteville. It was a deadly collision, ultimately killing nine. Two cars carrying chlorine ruptured, leaking the deadly gas into the surrounding area. Emergency officials ordered a mandatory evacuation in a one-mile radius around the crash site. Residents fled, some having to leave their pets. Clemson Livestock and Poultry Health emergency responders mobilized to deal with the animals.
Animal control officers rescued 338 animals in the evacuated area and reported 27 dead. The response team provided veterinary care and timely information to residents wanting to retrieve their animals. Shelters opened, though most pets accompanied their owners.
As the lead agency in the state for animal emergencies, Clemson’s Livestock and Poultry Health Division coordinates protection for livestock, pets and wildlife. It oversees animal evacuation and shelters for hurricanes and other threats, as well as carcass and waste disposal when needed. 
“This has been a busy year,” said Tony Caver, state veterinarian and LPHD director. “Along with Graniteville, we had to keep up with national and global situations, such as bovine spongiform encephalitis (mad cow disease), avian influenza, four hurricanes and the tsunami.”

Even if the event doesn’t occur in South Carolina, each incident requires some level of response – disease surveillance, tracking animals coming in and out of the state, reviewing certificates of veterinary inspections, inspecting meat and poultry processing operations, enhancing disease diagnostic capabilities and improving interagency communication.

“To prepare for the next natural or intentional disease outbreak, we’re developing County Animal Response Teams and enrolling animal producers in the National Animal Identification Program,” said Caver. These efforts include training, exercises, education, and mobile laboratory equipment.

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