Rep. Grimm Calls for Vet Services to Remain at ASPCA Boarding Facility to Care for Pets Displaced by Superstorm Sandy

Dec 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R,C-NY) urged federal and state officials to ensure that veterinarians from the National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) remain onsite through the duration of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) emergency animal boarding facility’s operation, which the congressman has requested be extended through January 6, 2013.  Representative Grimm has contacted federal and state officials to ask that additional resources be granted so NVRT veterinarians can remain in service, after learning late yesterday that today is the last scheduled shift for the NVRT.  

The ASPCA opened its emergency boarding facility in Brooklyn on November 17, 2012 for animals from families displaced by Superstorm Sandy.  The NVRT team of four veterinarians has been providing medical care for more than 200 animals and is scheduled to leave the shelter today.  Roughly 25 percent of the pets are from Staten Island.

“Losing the veterinarian team now could be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the animals housed in the ASPCA emergency shelter,” said Grimm. “Furthermore, with Christmas around the corner and many families still without homes, extending the operation of the shelter through January would lift a burden on those who are already facing tremendous hardship. I am making these two urgent requests to ensure that families displaced by Superstorm Sandy will have one less thing to worry about this holiday season, knowing that their pets are safe and well-cared for throughout holidays.”

“We are grateful to Representative Grimm for his abiding concern and affirmative actions on behalf of the families and the pets in his district,” said Dick Green, director of disaster response for the ASPCA. "The consistent presence of NVERT veterinarians at this facility has been particularly critical, and we are hopeful they will stay on to ensure the well-being and care for these pets.”

Rep. Grimm is sending the letter attached and posted below urging the NVRT to remain in place.

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December 12, 2012

 


The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street SW
Washington, DC 20472

The Honorable Jerome H. Hauer
Commissioner    
NYS Division of Homeland Security
1220 Washington Avenue, Suite 101
Albany, NY 12226

The Honorable Nicole Lurie, M.D.
Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201

The Honorable Darrel J. Aubertine
Commissioner
NYS Department of Agriculture
10B Airline Drive
Albany, NY 12235

Dear Administrator Fugate, Dr. Lurie, Commissioner Hauer, and Commissioner Aubertine:

I am writing today to request your urgent help with ensuring that hundreds of New York City animals whose families suffered great losses due to Superstorm Sandy do not go without the veterinary care they need.  It has come to my attention that the services provided by a National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) shelter in Brooklyn are scheduled to be withdrawn. I request an extension that will allow the shelter to remain open through January 6th and ask that the veterinarian team remain on site through the full duration of the shelter’s operation. 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City Animal Care and Control (ACC) asked the ASPCA to establish an Emergency Boarding Facility (EBF) in Brooklyn, NY.  The purpose of the facility is to shelter pets owned by area citizens who lost their homes or are otherwise unable to provide housing or medical care for their pets as a result of Hurricane Sandy.   The ASPCA opened the facility on November 17 and over the last 3 ½ weeks has housed approximately 270 animals.

On November 5, the ASPCA and ACC made a request to the New York City Office of Emergency Management for veterinary teams to provide medical care for the animals.  That request was sent to the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets and eventually signed by Commissioner Aubertine and forwarded to the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services where it was signed and forwarded to FEMA.  The request was filled by a National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  NVRT has supported the Emergency Boarding Facility by providing consistent quality of care that could not be filled by the private sector.  The life-saving work of this emergency shelter will provide a working model for future disasters.  The NVRT teams average close to 200 patient “encounters” daily, giving care that is critical for an at-risk population.

On November 30, the ASPCA made a request to NYC OEM for the NVRT mission to be extended to January 6.  This extension will enable victims of the storm to know that their beloved pets are safe and cared for over the holiday season as they rebuild the lives. Unfortunately, that request has not been signed by DHSES and unless the mission is extended, the NVRT will demobilize at the close of business tomorrow.  The facility population is currently 212 pets and last week, an upper respiratory infection outbreak occurred impacting nearly 50% of the population. 

It is absolutely critical that the appropriate state and federal agencies work together to facilitate the continued services of the NVRT team. I am including each of you in this communication with the hope that you can act quickly to ensure that the federal, state, and NGO’s can continue to work cooperatively to provide this vital care for affected families in and around New York City   The New York City Office of Emergency Management initiated the request for NVRT.  All NYC requests for State support begin with the completion of a Disaster LAN (tasking number).  The request for support at the Emergency Boarding Facility was assigned number 102909. 

NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets:  I am requesting that NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets support the ASPCA’s request for an extension of NVRT’s services. Since the DLAN was animal-related, the original request started with Agriculture and Markets and the extension must again be approved by this department.  The department has been extremely supportive to the animal response since Superstorm Sandy reached New York.

NY State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services:  I am requesting that NYS DHSES approve the ASPCA’s request for an extension of NVRT’s services.   The State cost share for federal assets is 25%.  Fortunately, the State’s cost-share can be offset by in-kind donations including volunteer hours.  The Emergency Boarding Facility is managed by the ASPCA but dependent on a large number of volunteers from the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, NYC Veterinary Emergency Response Team, ASPCA Response Partners, and members of the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition.  To date, there have been over 326 volunteers from 20 agencies donating more than 10,000 hours to support the Boarding Facility.  These hours will almost certainly offset the 25% State cost-share.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):  I am requesting that FEMA approve the ASPCA’s request for an extension of NVRT’s services. Any request for federal assets typically comes to FEMA where if accepted, will be tasked to the appropriate agency or contractor.  In the case of the Emergency Boarding Facility, the request for veterinary support was filled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Veterinary Response Team. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):  I am requesting that HHS approve the ASPCA’s request for an extension of NVRT’s services. Mission assignments for veterinary care are filled by the National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT).  In the case of NYC, NVRT was assigned four missions, the fourth being support for the EBF.  NVRT has teams available to continue the operation starting with an extension of the current team and a “reloading” of another team at the end of the week. 

I would greatly appreciate your support in retaining NVRT as they are critical in the ongoing care of animals impacted by Superstorm Sandy.  I am extremely concerned with the well-being of the population and to attempt to fill the veterinary needs through the public sector will undoubtedly place these animals at greater risk. Ensuring that pets are well cared for is a cornerstone of the recovery for my affected constituents and I trust you will act swiftly to enable this vital NVRT care can continue. I am most grateful for any help you can provide.

Sincerely,

Michael Grimm
Member of Congress