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UC Davis Veterinarians Provide Emergency Care at Valley Fire

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These abandoned goats, found by UC Davis veterinarians, eagerly await care and water.

September 15, 2015 - On Monday, September 14, several veterinarians from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) mobilized to the Valley Fire currently burning more than 65,000 acres in Northern California. The fire has destroyed more than 500 homes and other structures, leaving potentially thousands of animals to fend for themselves.

The team is being led by the school’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT), and is comprised of veterinarians from UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), Center for Equine Health (CEH), and the International Animal Welfare Training Institute. This collaborative effort is assisting with search and rescue efforts, as well as emergency treatment of animals in the field. VERT leaders Drs. Eric Davis and John Madigan were able to quickly train the team, giving excellent guidance on organizing efforts to maximize impact.

The team was able to “to divide and conquer,” by splitting team members up throughout several areas of the fire. Establishing a home base in Middletown, the team branched out to identify animals in need of veterinary care and those in need of food and water. Sick and injured horses were sent to the Middletown Veterinary Hospital (MVH) where they were treated by Dr. Davis and MVH’s Dr. Jeff Smith, who has been up for days and is working tirelessly to re-unite animals with their owners. Many other species of animals were found and brought to area shelters and animal control, including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, chickens and other fowl.

“We used water from swimming pools that survived the fire, as there was no running water or electricity,” said CEH director Dr. Claudia Sonder. “It was incredibly gratifying to find small bands of goats, and birds that ran up to greet us, eagerly seeking water.”

Reports abound of residents who had no time to react to the rapidly moving fire. VERT responded to many requests from animal owners to investigate their properties for lost animals that, unfortunately, had to be immediately abandoned in the escape. Several burned animals, including pigs and cats, were immediately transported to the VMTH, where they are recovering. The hospital expects more animals to be admitted today. The emergency room and intensive care units (for both large and small animals), staffed by multiple board-certified critical care specialists, remain open 24/7 to receive patients.

The local outpouring of relief has been amazing. Officials report an abundance of hay, halters, leads, medications, and offers to help. The SVM has established a resource page for those affected by the fires (including the nearby Butte Fire):

This disaster clearly demonstrates the importance of an integrated response between multiple agencies, both public and private, to serve the needs of their communities. Dr. Madigan and Dr. Grant Miller of the California Veterinary Medical Association kept in constant communication with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which allowed VERT access to the many animals it was able to help.

Efforts by VERT continue today, as they move to the Cobb community north of Middletown. 

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Donations to treat animals affected by the Valley and Butte Fires can be made at: