Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health is partnering with the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians to prepare for the worst.

The Association of Veterinarians, supported by Livestock-Poultry Health, received a $5,000 Disaster Preparedness Grant from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. The money will be used to train veterinarians, vet-techs and support staff to respond to natural and manmade disasters.

"As the lead agency for our state's animal emergency-response operations, we are very glad this grant is available in South Carolina and look forward to training and serving with the state’s veterinary community," said Boyd Parr, state veterinarian and Livestock-Poultry Health director. "Hurricane and tornado season are not far off and we are ready to coordinate aid if disaster strikes."

South Carolina is vulnerable. Along the 178-mile coastline live more than a quarter of the state’s 5 million residents. Evacuating and addressing after-emergency needs for up to 1.5 million people is complicated enough; add livestock and pets and the task becomes staggering. Earthquakes, too, can rock the state, a concern when there are six nuclear facilities currently operating and more planned.

Not all disasters are big movers and shakers. Some are no louder than a buzzing mosquito and can be seen only under a microscope. Outbreaks of diseases — familiar and foreign — can cripple the state's livestock and poultry industry. South Carolina is home to more than 80,000 horses, and the number of cats and dogs is far greater.

Charlotte Krugler is the Livestock-Poultry Health emergency preparedness veterinarian and liaison to the state Emergency Management Division headquartered in West Columbia. Animal-response action is specifically called for by law and given its own designation: Emergency Support Function (ESF)-17 in disaster-response planning.

“The overarching goal is to develop a group of trained veterinary professionals who can assist with animal emergency response in all types of disasters facing the state," said Krugler. "An inventory of these responders will be maintained and readily accessible. State animal and agriculture response plans also will be updated following the training program.” 

Training sessions will begin May 19 in West Columbia and June 16 and 18 in Myrtle Beach.

Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health has a major role in protecting the health of food animals (beef, poultry, swine, etc.), and other livestock that helps ensure not only their productivity but also their access to domestic and export markets. Its functions include conducting surveillance for diseases that affect both humans and animals, providing diagnostic expertise that allows for treatment and eradication of disease in domestic animals, identifying diseases in wildlife that could affect humans or domestic animals and conducting the state’s meat inspection program, in addition to coordinating state agricultural animal emergency response as lead agency of ESF-17.