online edition


Volume 5, Number 1 March 27, 2000


PRESIDENT: Dr. Jacob Casper Dr. Julia Allen 2000 Dr. Gary Stamp 2001
VICE PRESIDENT Dr. Lorna Lanman Dr. John H. Anderson 2000 Cecily Westermann 2002
SECRETARY/TREASURER Dr. Joanne Howl Dr. Jim Hamilton 2002 Dr. Wayne Wingfield 2001

Table of Contents:
Annual Meeting Announcement and Tentative Agenda-- Joanne Howl, DVM
AAVDM Website-- Wayne E. Wingfield, DVM
Pet Peeves in Disasters--Sebastian Heath, VetMB, PhD
Georgia Tornadoes—Overview--Cindy Lovern, DVM
Georgia Tornadoes—After Action Review excerpts--Dick Green, EdD
Mongolian Livestock Crisis--Reprint—Reuters
Petrobras (Guanabara) Oil Spill--Elizabeth Mac Gregor
Romanian Cyanide Spill--Barbara Eros and Pal Gera
Venezuelan Mudslides--Dick Green, EdD
California Creates Rescue Centers for Oiled Wildlife--Reprint—JAVMA
Planning for a Terrorist Chemical Attack--Reprint—IAEM Bulletin
Editor's Notes


Tuesday, July 15, 2000—12:00 Noon-2:00 P.M.
Marriott Hotel (across from the Convention Center)
Salt Lake City, Utah

16th Annual Business Meeting—
American Academy on Veterinary Disaster Medicine
Submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM—Secretary/Treasurer

I. Call to Order
II. Reading and approval of Minutes of last annual meeting
III. Reading and approval of Treasure's Report
IV. Old Business
Report on website
Report on Certification for FEMA course
Report on new logo
Review of AAVDM Activities and educational goals.

Should we reprioritize?

Fund Raising/ sponsorship

Membership Drive

V. Comments from the President

VI. Nominations Committee Report

Note: Nominations are still being sought for all positions— particularly the Officers! Please submit names to the Secretary/Treasurer as soon as possible.

Current Nominees:


President: Dr. Lorna Lanman

Vice President: Dr. Julia Allen

Sec/Treas: Dr. Joanne Howl

Directors (2 positions open)—

Dr. John H. Anderson, Dr. Garry Goemann, Dr. Barry Kellogg, Dr. Cindy Lovern

VII. Election of New Officers

VIII. Comments from the new President

IX: New Business

Nominations for Honorary Membership

USDA Disaster Planning Consortium

Discussion of Direction of Newsletter

Newsletter survey review

Editorial position


Instituting public awareness

Pet food boxes for public awareness

Improving our Booth

Meeting Adjournment

Ed Note:

Please notify Dr. Howl of any Agenda additions and nominations as soon as possible. Her E-mail address is

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by Wayne E. Wingfield, DVM, MS

The webpage for the American Academy on Veterinary Disaster Medicine is up and running


There are a few items that need your attention before our annual meeting in Salt Lake City, UT in conjunction with the AVMA’s annual meeting:

We need your thoughts on publishing member names on our site.

There is concern among members that they would get on

e-commerce lists, receive unwanted e-mail messages, etc. These

are real concerns, but one needs to temper these concerns with

the knowledge that most of this information is readily accessible

on white page searches on the web right now. Also, we have a

common interest in disaster medicine and there may come a time

when someone wants to know who in Colorado (for example), has

an interest that can help in the even of a disaster.

Do you think we are to the point where our Newsletter can be

"distributed" via e-mail or on the website? Are there significant

numbers of AAVDM members who have no e-mail addresses?

When a website is developed, it must be kept fresh to keep readers

returning. Would you be willing to contribute photographs, slides,

news, and other items for the website? We have all experienced

that website which hasn’t been updated since 1995. If we are

going to communicate and educate, we need to be on top of what

is happening now.

Are there important links which need to be added to our site?

Your input is important to us. Thank you for taking time from your busy

daily agenda to provide any and all constructive feedback.

Wayne E. Wingfield, MS, DVM
Department of Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523

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We are pleased to announce that Dr. Cindy Lovern will write an ongoing column in the AAVDM Newsletter.





If you are involved in drafting or carrying out zoo or animal research facility disaster mitigation and response procedures—or know someone who is—please contact

Disaster Medicine feature in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) publishes several features, one of which is Disaster Medicine. Authors are invited to submit manuscripts that will be considered for publication in this feature. Manuscripts will be peer-reviewed for scientific content. Case reports, controlled studies, or results of surveys are appropriate topics.

Authors must follow the "Instructions for Authors" for the JAVMA. A copy of the instructions can be found in a recent issue of the JAVMA or on the AVMA web site at

If you have questions about the feature, or about preparation of a manuscript for the feature, please contact Dr. Craig A. Smith, Associate Editor (800-248-2862, ext 259; e-mail: Csmith Manuscripts for consideration in the Disaster Medicine feature should be submitted to the JAVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Rd, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360

submitted by Cindy Lovern, DVM

International Clinical Toxinocology Short Course

University of Adelaide (Australia)-October 30-November 8, 2000. Covers types of venomous and poisonous animals, plants, and mushrooms. Includes envenoming from exotic captive species. For registration form and details, please FAX the course coordinator, Dr. Julian White (++1-8-82046049).

Submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM

Department of Defense Medical Initiatives Conference

(MEDIC) and Exhibitions

Weapons of Mass Destruction 2000

April 2-6, 2000

Hyatt Regency Crystal City—2799 Jefferson Davis Highway—

Arlington, VA

Contact: 1-800-233-1234 or 703-418-1264

This conference will give an overview of organized medicine’s role in the National Response to Terrorism, as well as to describe many threat hazards. While medical responses are aimed at human victims, not animals, there is still much valuable information available for emergency managers, veterinarians and other interested parties.

Some of the courses include: Threat agents: Radiological, Chemical and Biological (Dr. Robert Knouss), Modeling/ Scenarios: Plumes, Casualties and Hazards (Dr. Jay Davis), Domestic Intelligence Summary, Coordination of Response Efforts within the US Armed Forces, Discussion of how to attain medical military support to civilian authorities (MSCA), DOD communications, and much, much more.

Not only will this be an interesting conference, the presence of veterinarians and animal-interested emergency managers may help build important lines of communication about the necessity of planning for the care of livestock and pets in times of disaster.

submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM

Epidemiology in Action Course

May 1-12, 2000--Emory University--Application Deadline is April 1, 2000

Applications and additional information are available from Emory University, International Health Department (PIA), FAX 404-727-4590 E-mail

This course emphasizes the practical application of epidemiology to public health problems, and consists of lectures, workshops, classroom exercises, and roundtable discussions. Topics covered include descriptive epidemiology and biostatistics, analytic epidemiology, epidemic investigations, public health surveillance, surveys and sampling, Epi Info software training, and discussions of selected prevalent diseases. There is a tuition charge.

Submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM

National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Bioterrorism Conference

Conference dates—June 18-19,2000 Exhibit dates—June 16+17, 2000 Denver, CO—Adams Mark Hotel

For further information, please contact a NEHA service specialist at 303-756-9090.

Submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM

4th International Conference—Local Authorities Confronting Disasters and Emergencies (LACDE)

August 27-30, 2000 Reykjavic, Iceland

For further information, please contact Petur Aoalsteinsson, E-mail

Submitted by Joanne Howl, DVM


Dr. Joanne Howl has been awarded the Purina* Cat Chow* Nutrition Award for her article "Carnivore in the House" (Cat Fancy Magazine), and the Purina* Cat Chow Special Care* Health Award for "Does Tabby Tip the Scale" (Tabbies 98-99). The awards were presented at the Cat Writers’ Association conference in

November 1999.

Dr. Howl’s book first book, entitled Your Cat’s Life was published by Prima Press in 1998. She is now working as series medical editor on the "Your Dog’s Life" series.

Your Cat’s Life is a lay-press publication, designed to share with the average cat owner all the tips and tricks of choosing and keeping a feline companion healthy and happy for life.

Submitted by Cecily Westermann

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Pet Peeves in Disasters

by Sebastian E. Heath, VetMB, PhD

Reports on Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina (1999) brought back many memories of the fate of animals after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The impression given in many reports on both hurricanes was that disasters are so overwhelming that everybody and all animals in its path are doomed to become helpless victims. This is inconsistent with the understanding that emergency managers have of disasters.

Why are there so many problems surrounding pets in disasters? Much of the sociological science literature on disasters tells us that pre-existing conditions lead to the major consequences of disasters. All that happens in disasters is that existing problems are exacerbated. Could similar pre-existing problems be the underlying problem with pets in disasters? Most likely, yes!

Reported statistics indicate that the pre-exiting conditions of rescued pets distinguish rescued pets from others: Of the approximately 700 animals cared for in the field by United Animal Nations, over 30% were abandoned. North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine reported an abandonment rate of nearly 80%, and of 400 adult pets only 3 (<1%) were spayed or neutered. Of some 500 rescued dogs tested by a local veterinarian 80% were positive for heart worm.

Most of these are characteristics indicate a poor level of care provided to these animals long before the hurricane struck, and are similar to the characteristics of the millions of "unwanted" pets that are euthanized every year. It is likely that the similarities between disaster victims and pound victims have common underlying causes. These are: pet overpopulation (which may be regional), irresponsible pet ownership, and ignorance. Mitigation and preparedness are the two phases of the emergency management cycle in which these problems are most likely to be corrected.

Mitigation consists of measures that prevent or reduce the impact of disasters. By definition effective mitigation efforts take place before a disaster, and, therefore, the focus of mitigation has to be the conditions under which pets live before a disaster.

The truth is that disasters are rare events, and affect only a very small proportion of people at a time. Therefore, for mitigation efforts to be effective they have to focus on changing every day living conditions of most pets in the U.S. An effective approach to improving every day living conditions of pets may be for animal disaster groups to team up with other groups that have similar concerns about animal welfare. My suggestion is to agree upon a message that supports all groups’ mission, such as for owners to get their pets spayed or neutered. Neutering a pet creates a financial investment in that animal. Higher financial investments in pets is associated with lower pet relinquishment rates to humane shelters, and will probably also reduce pet abandonment in disasters, and cut down on irresponsible proliferation of undesired pets.

Preparedness consists of planning, education and training. Preparedness is for things one cannot mitigate.

Pet evacuation failure and pet abandonment are the greatest threats to animal well being in disasters. Most owners who evacuate without their pets say they left their pets behind because thought they would not be gone for long. Clearly there is a disconnect between human and animal safety.

Modifying owner’s behaviors should, therefore, be the focus of preparedness efforts. Disasters offer unique teachable moments. The times when people’s behavior is easiest to modify are when evacuation advisories are given, and in the aftermath of a disaster. The characteristics of effective messages are:

Messages have to be consistent (conflicting messages lead to generalized disbelief);
Messages have to come from a variety of sources (multiple sources reinforce and better disseminate the message); and
Messages should contain specific activities.

Also, serious consideration needs to be given to whether rescued animals should be returned to their owners.

The future for animals in disasters looks good, as long as we remember that the care of animals is in disasters is part of a much bigger picture, which is the need to improve the welfare of animals in general. We cannot prevent disasters from happening, but we can mitigate their impact and prepare for their consequences.

Capture, rescue, treatment and triage of animals in disasters is important, but response is rarely effective at correcting underlying causes. Further, if response is the only activity, it may actually condone the conditions that lead to its necessity, by perpetuating the impression that "somebody else will take care of my animals".

There is a need for a national consensus on effective messages on the care of animals in disasters, and when and how these messages should be broadcast. As several national groups have started a renewed search on how to improve pet well being in disasters, I sincerely hope these groups will grasp the opportunity to shift their emphasis from response to mitigation and preparedness. Mitigation and preparedness are the most cost effective interventions in disasters, and are the priorities in the two Independent Study courses by FEMA "Animals in Disasters" and in the only text book on the subject "Animal Management in Disasters".

Dr. Heath’s books are available from:

Animal Management in Disasters (www://

Rescuing Rover (www://

He can be be contacted now at

and soon at


Please contact author for permission to duplicate.

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Georgia Tornadoes—Overview

by Cindy Lovern, DVM

Report dated February 17, 2000.

This will be the last Georgia update, unless something unexpected happens. The Georgia Department of Agriculture reports that Mitchell County recovery has essentially been completed, and recovery operations have moved to Omega City, and Colquitt and Tift counties.

Four local veterinarians are providing veterinary medical care, as needed: Dr. Mary Rogers, Dr. Bo Curles, Dr. Becky Malphus, Dr. Joanna Davis.

I have sent the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund Information to all of the veterinarians currently assisting tornado victims, and to those located in and around the disaster areas.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, the American Humane Association (AHA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Humane Association of Georgia, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association, the Georgia Animal Control Officers Association, and various local animal control agencies and sheriff departments are working very closely together for the safety and well-being of the animal population that was affected by the tornadoes.

25 bulldozers and backhoes have been supplied by the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and through local county Emergency Management mutual aid for a total of 25 bulldozers and backhoes.

The Georgia Department of Corrections supplied fire support for fire control around the open burn, and other support from local volunteer fire departments was obtained. The Georgia Department of Corrections also supplied 50 trustees to help with debris removal.

Cagle Poultry Company has assisted with the removal of tens of thousands of birds, which they owned, and has helped in the disposal of 900 tons of dead birds in a manner that protected the public health and the environment.

According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, many large animals have been affected by this disaster. Numerous cattle were killed and buried appropriately. Many horses were treated for associated injuries.

According to the American Humane Association, many carcasses of small wildlife (chipmunks, squirrels, etc.) have been found. Two goats and one cow have been hit and injured by cars, but are being tended to.

A semi-truck is bringing animal food in to distribute to the Shelters, and to use to feed the roaming animals.

Cat trapping is not a high priority for the local officials, but food will be left outside for the roaming cats.

Actual numbers of affected animals will be available in the AHA after action report.

The recovery effort should be completely taken over by the local community tomorrow, February 18.

The Mitchell County Animal Shelter has been filled to capacity. A photograph/information log documenting found animals (living and dead) is being kept at this shelter. Owners are being told to visit this shelter to identify and possibly reclaim their pets.

The animals at Mitchell County Shelter will be held for 14 days. After 14 days, if the animal is in good health, he/she will be fostered out. I have been told that no animal that is in good condition will be euthanized just because the 14 days are up. A foster program will commence to try to get every animal into a veterinary hospital or a home in the hope of reuniting him/her with their owner. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is confident that the foster network will be successful.

All of the organizations responding to this disaster situation realize the importance of a complete disaster response including a response for the animals.

The state of Georgia serves as an example of excellent animal disaster preparedness and response to other states hoping to accomplish a complete disaster recovery effort.

Dr. Lovern is the Assistant Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response for the American Veterinary Medical Association. She can be contacted at

Please contact author for permission to duplicate.

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Georgia Tornadoes—After Action Review Excerpts

by Dick Green, EdD

At approximately midnight on Monday, February 14th an F3 tornado touched down in southern Georgia, causing significant damage and loss of human and animal lives. 21 fatalities, hundreds injured, and thousands left homeless. In terms of animal losses, the greatest impact appears to have been on the poultry industry with 28,000 dead and losses estimated to be $1.4 M—with three farms completely lost. The total loss in agriculturally related construction is estimated at $2.4 M. The hardest hit area was in Mitchell County, in and around the town of Camillia—located in southern Georgia near the Florida border, and approximately 220 miles south of Atlanta.

February 14

Our response began at approximately 0700 PST. I got in touch with Dr. Paul Williams, the Associate Head Veterinarian for the State of Georgia, and located in Georgia’s Office of Emergency Management. He requested our assistance, and by 0800, our truck was heading south from the Washington D.C. area. We were scheduled to arrive in the Atlanta area by early evening. I contacted Pat Smith of the Thomasville shelter, Dr. Cindy Lovern of the AVMA, Shirley Menshew with IFAW, Mark McGuire of Code 3, and Jack Sparks at AHA. I also left messages for Laura Bevan (HSUS-SERO), Bill Garrett in Atlanta, and Kerri Burns at PetSmart—informing them of our response plans.

February 15

Dr. Williams contacted the Mitchell County EOC and prepared them for our arrival. I checked in with Ramsley Presley, director of the Mitchell County shelter at 1030—then with Dudley Hammill, the Department of Agriculture inspector for the area. I also checked in with the County EOC, and was given permission for the truck’s staging area. There were already a number of local animal control groups and volunteer agencies in the field rescuing companion animals. There were very few reports of dead livestock and, surprisingly, very few dead companion animals. Representatives were there from the Mitchell, Albany, Thomasville, and Moultrie shelters—and from the Department of Agriculture, Liberty Animal Hospital, St. Francis Wildlife in Florida, IFAW. There were also two local veterinarians—Dr. Bo Curles and Dr. Mary Rogers—for a total of 23.

As we pulled into the area, two Georgia State Patrolmen informed were wasting our time, and theirs, for even being there, since he and the other officers had not spotted any animals in that area for the past 24 hours. We assigned a transport vehicle the task of shuttling any found animals to the Mitchell County shelter. Within 2.5 hours, the groups had rescued ten dogs and had numerous sightings of additional animals.

February 16

We began a perimeter search of the area we had been in yesterday, in hope that we might catch animals further out as heavy equipment moved in. The Sheriff advised the teams not to get out of the vehicle unless we actually saw animals, because this was a high security area. We rescued one cat and six dogs. Bella, the search and rescue lab trained by Dr. Malphus recovered an injured dove—which she gingerly brought to the group. We also located, and notified the county about, a number of animals that would need to have feed and water provided, since it was unclear how soon their owners would be coming home.

At 1800, two teams set out to bait and set thirteen cat and two dog traps. We caught one male tabby while we were setting the traps.

February 17

We recovered our traps—containing only two cats—at 0615. We arrived in Moultrie at 0930. The chief of police and one deputy sheriff escorted us to the most affected areas throughout the county. We performed a very effective, organized search—and located three adult dogs. One dog was injured, and another was nursing seven very young pups. We were met by Dr. Davis, who inspected the injured dog and agreed to take her to Moultrie. Local animal control agreed to provide food and water for the remaining dogs until the pups were old enough to bring in with the mother.

We returned to Omega and checked on two injured goats and seven missing cows. I called Dr. Williams, and it was decided that our work was over. The remaining issues in the three counties affected were animal control issues. Mission was terminated at 1400.

Total animals rescued: 18 dogs 4 cats 1 bird

Animal emergency responders included: Albany Animal Control, American Humane Association, Georgia Department of Agriculure, Georgia Humane Society, Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Liberty Animal Hospital, Mitchell City Animal Control, Moultrie Animal Control, St. Francis Wildlife, Thomasville Animal Control, Dr. Bo Curles, Dr. Becky Malphus, Dr. Mary Rogers, and several individual volunteers.

Dr. Green is the Emergency Animal Relief Manager for the American Humane Association. His e-mail address is

Please contact author for permission to duplicate.

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Mongolian Livestock Crisis Deepens

by Irja Halasz

Copyright Reuters Limited 2000

ULAN BATOR, Feb 29 (Reuters)—

Mongolia’s exceptionally savage winter has killed more than a million head of livestock and thousands more are dying every day, deepening a crisis facing large numbers of herders, officials said on Tuesday.

A third of Mongolia’s 2.4 million people are dependent on their livestock.

"There is a potential that the losses will increase rapidly," senior State Emergency Commission official Natsagdorj told Reuters.

The commission, the government agency that deals with natural disasters, said it had received reports that 1,093,700 head of livestock had died in the disaster, up from 200,000 from a week ago.

Senior commission officials said thousands more were dying each day and that the disaster areas had widened to encompass 141 of Mongolia’s 360 counties.

"We have great difficulties with transportation and supplies of fodder," Natsagdorf said.

Mongolia’s herds of cattle, goats, horses, camels, sheep and yaks normally continue to graze throughout winter as their pastures are rarely buried by snow. The get supplementary feed from hay harvested in the summer.

But a fierce drought last summer cut the hay crop and herders had little or nothing to give their animals when winter arrived early, bringing deadly blizzards. The September arrival of winter also hit before herders make their winter foodstocks, like dried curd, which they normally prepare in the autumn.

Areas to which herds were evacuated after the onset of winter, which does not normally arrive until November, have now been hit by blizzards, officials said. "There is simply not enough vegetation and now there have been blizzards and cold weather where the animals have been evacuated," Natsagdorj said. "The losses will increase."


Last week, the Mongolian Red Cross launched an international appeal for urgent food aid for thousands of herders whose livestock have been wiped out.

It said at least 238,000 people were short of food and 30,000 of them were in dire need.

"Herders did not have time in the autumn to make their usual milk products, " before the blizzards struck, said Reijo Salmela, a senior WHO official in Ulan Bator. "They were running out of their stocks. Rice, flour, and multivitamins are needed for the children for the next few months as the herders have lost their purchasing power," he said.

The WHO said it was yet unclear how wide an impact the disaster would have on the herders, but already some increase in cold related illnesses were evident and chronic diseases would worsen.

Heart, circulation and respiratory diseases were common among herders, it said.

The government and the Red Cross had distributed emergency supplies, bought with state funds and donations, to aid some of the people and the livestock, but much more was needed urgently officials said.

Four herders have frozen to death trying to save their animals.

At least 8,000 households are known to have lost all their herds. Actual losses were likely to be much higher as information from remote areas of the large but thinly populated nation was not available.

Please contact Reuters for permission to duplicate.

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Petrobras (Guanabara) Oil Spill

by Elizabeth Mac Gregor

On January 6, 2000, after a delay of four days, Petrobras discovered an oil spill in the Guanabara Bay (Rio de Janeiro) of 1.3 million liters, that had leaked from its undersea pipes of their oil refinery in Duque de Caxias, by the bay.

This delay caused an environmental disaster as the whole process of trying to prevent the oil from spreading throughout most of the bay was jeopardized, and the many islands and small villages around the bay were reached very quickly.

The most affected areas were the mangroves where life starts in the water ecology. Thousands of fishermen will remain work-less for many months and some perhaps for years—they will be reimbursed by Petrobras (already a big problem there).

According to specialists it will take around twenty years for the bay to recover from this particular disaster, especially taking into account that it is already over-polluted by many other things like factories and slums surrounding it.

The president of Petrobras, Henri Phillipe Reichstul and the superintendent of the refinery, Kuniyuki Terabi, confirmed to the Federal Police the very serious facts that resulted from this disaster. Petrobras took too long to discover the spill (human failure), the pipe designers did not take into account the man-grove soil movements and the expansion and contraction that can occur due to the high temperature of the oil (70-90 degrees Centrigrade). The refinery itself has no license to operate. It has already gotten many fines over the years, that have not been paid.

The emergency plans for such a disaster were almost nonexistent, and above all, the refinery did not comply with environ-mental protection regulations. In a word—chaos. Another oil spill occurred in 1997—800 million liters. But this did not receive the same degree of media coverage, and it was partially covered up by Petrobras.

Foreign specialists were hired to try to keep the oil from the rest of the bay. An English biochemist, Karen Purnell, of International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation was also called in. She is using the "deflexion" system to contain the spread of oil—using buoys to pull the oil to a certain beach from where it will be sucked by hoses to a barge. Around 60km2 were affected.

Petrobras got a fine of R$50million (around US$25 million)from IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of the Environment) for the oil spill, plus R$1 million for the ecological effects. (Ridiculous!)

The ten-page IBAMA report on the damage caused to the environment—written by nine specialists who flew over the area, and who also inspected it by boat—says that some species were extinct, crustaceons are endangered, mangroves were highly affected, many birds died, fishes just disappeared. All of this will take more than ten years for recovery. However, according to them, the true extension of this disaster will be known only after a more detailed evaluation of the reaction of the affected ecosystems. The A.P.A. (Environmental Protected Area) of Guapimirim, at the end of the bay, had 10% of its area affected. Dead animals and plants were collected to be more thoroughly examined.

All pertinent government organizations were called in to help minimize the effects of the disaster. Many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations—including the World Society for Pro- tection of Animals—and environmental organizations were critical and skeptical of the work done by Petrobras.

Rumors were spread that since the first day, Petrobras was paying $5.00 for each animal found dead so as not to pay a higher fine for each of them—of course nothing was proved.

Groups were organized to be sent to the mangroves to spread a special powder from Canada called Sphag Sorb.

Other groups were sent to collect animals. Since there are no rehabilitation centers for animals affected by disasters, all animals found still alive—especially birds—were taken to a beach (called Limao, Lemon) where a recovery center was set up for treatment and possible release at Guaratiba Sanctuary.

According to State Institute of Forests veterinarians only 30% survived. Most birds were "biguas", as they have to dive to catch fish. In this recovery center everything was improvised and primitive, since it did not receive the necessary support from Petrobras.

When the birds arrive at the center, a catheter is applied to their stomachs to administer coal for disintoxication. Then they are taken to tanks, where they are cleaned eight times with hot water. They are then washed with detergent and warmed in normal cooking ovens to 38 degrees Centigrade.

Veterinarians and volunteers had to deal with lack of water at some points—yet did their best to keep saving the birds (even praying and lighting candles). Dr. Lauro Barcellos, an oceanographer from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul was called in to organize the work.

All environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, are

pressuring the government to change its whole procedure regarding ecological preservation. This disaster served, at least, to bring up the issue of the oil spills that normally occur all over Brazil in Petrobras facilities—though with smalller magnitude.

Petrobras is a government oil company, so the true facts are covered up, or manufactured.

Elizabeth Mac Gregor is a staff member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. She is affiliated with WSPA-Brazil office. Her e-mail address is

Texts were compiled from several newspapers including Jornal do Brasil, O Globo, and Jornal da Tarde.

Please contact author for permission to duplicate.

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Romanian Cyanide Spill Decimates River Otter Population

by Barbara Eros and Pal Gara

On January 30, 2000 about 100 tons of cyanide and heavy metals spilled over the earthen walls of a containment lake in northern Romania, entering streams that carried the pollutants to the Tisza River in north-eastern Hungary. From there, the poisoned water flowed into the Danube River south of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Tons of fish and other wildlife were killed. As the greatest environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl unfolds along the Danube River in Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia, Ashoka Fellow, Pal Gera is responding to the devastating effects of this spill on local fauna.

In the past few weeks, scientists, environmentalists, and members of a special United Nations assignment have worked furiously to ascertain the levels of toxicity, identify effected animal populations, and estimate the long-term affects of the spill. What they are finding is that the initial death toll among fish does not reveal the true costs of this spill. As the almost total disappearance of the fish and otters that lived along these rivers attests, the effects of the cyanide on the animal populations near this river will be ongoing and fatal. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Germany, the more than 400 otters that had been counted along the rivers have disappeared and are presumed to be dead after ingesting fish poisoned by the spill.

"The otters will not be the last victims of the toxic spill," fears Anja Rech, communications officer at WWF Germany's Meadow Institute. While human drinking water supplies are believed to be within safe levels of

toxicity, the animals along the river that rely on the water, fish, and plant life in the river face almost certain death. The spill site has been declared a "graveyard," yet Pal Gera continues searching out the few surviving otters, and trying to provide the medical attention they need.

Gera created the Foundation for Otters in January 1995 to protect otters and wetlands in Hungary and throughout Europe. Using otters to galvanize public support for environmental protection, Gera built a comprehensive program focused on public education and community involvement. His work focuses on otters in part because they sit at the top of the food chain and serve as an excellent indicator of general environmental health.

Yet the growing support among local communities for protection of the river and the area's diverse fauna , were not enough to stop the Australian gold mining company responsible for the spill from causing this catastrophe. The use of cyanide to separate gold from surrounding ore is illegal in most industrialized nations leading to the accusation that the company was taking advantage of lax environmental laws in Romania, where the spill occurred.

We have been carrying out the work of monitoring otter populations for years. Therefore we had accurate information about the movements and habits of the otter population inhabiting the poisoned area and its environment. According to our previous experiences approximately 300-400 otters could have inhabited the polluted river area

Since February 3 we have been carrying out repeated and intensified observations. We have examined all migrational and area marking habitats we were aware of, and will continue to do so in the future (this involves more than 200 locations). Until February 25 we were not aware of any fresh otter marks, Then on the February 25 and 27, and March 2, we once again discovered otter marks near the towns of Tiszacsege, Kisköre, Tiszafüred, Csongrád, in an area where the pollution has already passed.

At the other locations we are unable to find any sign of the otters for the time being. It is likely that the entire fish stock of the rivers Szamos was eliminated, and there was enormous damage done to the fish stock of the river Tisza. Until the March 2, 230 tons of fish remains were removed from the two rivers. In addition the perishing of birds (eagles, cormorant, swans and seagulls) as well as mammals (fox, wild boar, dogs, cats) was also registered.

We hope that in the Central and Southern sections of the river Tisza the degree of pollution was not high enough to wipe out the entire fish population. Fortunately significant water reservoirs and water channels were not polluted along the river. A part of the fish and otter populations were able to withdraw here. According to our ideas there are two alternatives for the fate of the otters which have not been found yet:

  1. They consumed poisoned fish, then withdrew to their nests where they suffered or were killed. At this point we are aware of two otter cemeteries, although it is hard to locate the nests. It is quite likely that at least a part of the stock met this fate. It is a tragedy that all this took place in the mating and reproductive season of the otters—lasting from October-March—therefore, pregnant and nursing otters also perished.
  1. It is possible that the otters sensed the poignant odor of the cyanide, and were warned by the changes in the behavior of the fish, therefore they withdrew to habitats where these disturbing phenomena were absent (closed river sections, channels, artificial lakes) where the poison did not reach. This alternative seems to be supported by the fact that we have found fresh otter marks in streams and channels where they were absent before.

Another tragedy on top of the ecological catastrophe is constituted by the fact that a large part of the population inhabiting the riverbanks carried out professions related to the living environment of the river (fishermen, restaurant owners, etc.), and therefore thousands of people were left without a job. It is hard to tell when the river will overcome the poisoning. Research continues.

Gera reports that this tragedy has been heightened by the fact that the spill occurred during the breeding season. The hopes for the otters' survival will be further reduced by the loss of pregnant and newborn otters. Through the Foundation for Otters, he has rallied to rescue the few otters that survived the spill. In a recent open letter, Gera describes his rescue efforts: "We are developing the Otter Ambulance and Otter Park in Somogy county, Hungary. We have already rescued a small number of otters."

Unfortunately, these emergency efforts will require additional support in order to be effective. According to Gera, "The Hungarian government is not able to support this work because of the lack of financial sources. We have to continue our activities and we need funding."

To get involved in Gera's rescue work,, please contact Ashoka's Hungarian representative—

Barbara Eros —Email:

For additional information on Pal Gera's work, please see Ashoka’s


and the Horizon Solution site

Please contact authors for permission to duplicate.

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Venezuelan Mudslides

by Dick Green, EdD

Along the northern coast of Venezuela are numerous small villages comprised of luxurious resorts, vacation homes and thousands of impoverished Venezuelans. Following many days of rain and two days of hard rain, huge mudslides began to fall wiping out nearly everything in their way. The damage came quickly and in the very early morning hours of December 16th so that people were literally running out of their homes trying to outrun the wall of earth and debris. It was a race many lost as current estimates range from 35 - 100,000 people dead and 140-200,000 homeless. Thousands of animals were either trapped in homes, injured or running free. Latest estimates are 100,000 animals affected by the disaster.

AHA was contacted on December 20th by Maru Angarita, a Venezuelan currently working in Washington D.C. Maru began an e-mail and public relation blitz in hopes of finding American support for the disaster. One of those e-mails found John Walsh from WSPA who sent Luis Carlos Sarmiento from the Colombia office. Luis arrived into Caracas on December 22nd with two WSPA volunteers. He made his first mission into the field on December 23rd. He quickly recognized a serious animal issue and began alerting the local animal welfare groups as to the strategies he would employ to begin the relief efforts. There are three agencies in Caracas contributing resources to the relief effort: APROA, SOS Animal, and the Municipality (Mayor’s) shelter.

On Monday, December 21st, Maru was able to arrange travel for me with the Venezuelan Air Force that was making near-daily flights from Miami to bring in relief supplies. I arrived into Miami on the 22nd and the C-130 took off Christmas Eve morning. On Christmas day, I traveled to APROA to view the shelter, meet volunteers and discuss rescue options. At that point, WSPA had led two field operations and brought in over 100 dogs. The local shelters were already being overwhelmed.

The following morning, we drove to Macuto which was the docking area for the National Guard. With 30 volunteers and a cutter we traveled to Pta. Naiguata. After considerable "discussion", a plan was designed. Luis took one group to Carabelleda and I led the other group into town. Both groups were assigned armed military support. We returned with 72 dogs, a number of cats, parrots, and macaws.

Luis and his two aides left the next day so I met the volunteers and headed back to Macuto. I met with the general in charge of the Venezuela Air Force and he reluctantly gave us a helicopter for the next day. We then drove to the docks and took a boat to Carabelleda. With very limited time, we brought in 35 dogs, some gatos (cats), a duck, and small turtles. During the return trip to the docks, I outlined a helicopter operation.

The following morning we were on our way with 12 carriers, 500 lb of food, 30 gals of water and 16 rescuers. We had to limit the number of rescuers to ensure that adequate space was available for the animals. The operation was simple: drop two teams at Carmen de Uria, with all of the kennels and some food, drop two teams at El Tigrillo with some food and a landing in Camuri Grande to drop off and distribute food.

That group was then flown back to Carmen de Uria to meet up with the first team. The second group was to make a thorough search of the El Tigrillo and bring the animals back on foot (2 km) to Carmen de Uria where temporary sheltering and staging would occur. All drops and transitions had to be done without the helicopter shutting down and required an incredible effort from the teams as gear and food had to be shuttled into and out of the helicopter in the quickest manner possible. We were given 5 minutes in Camuri Grande to unload and distribute several hundred pounds of food.

I established a temporary shelter and monitored the progress of the teams via cell phones. I closed down the operation at 3:30 PM to prepare for our pick-up scheduled for 4 PM. Our final count was 50 dogs, 9 cats, 4 rabbits, and 6 turtles. We sedated the more aggressive dogs and literally crammed as many as possible into carriers. I knew that we were very near and possibly over the limit as to what would fit into the helicopter.

By 6 PM, it dawned on me that we were going to be stranded on the beach for the night. We had nearly 70 animals including a number of very sick, very young, pregnant and in-heat dogs. To complicate matters, this was a highly sensitive area in terms of security. Looting and civil unrest had been a problem and even though soldiers were positioned in town, I was not looking forward to spending a night on the beach. I strung a 200-foot picket line and we staked out as many animals as possible. We built two large fires and hunkered in for a night of sand fleas and wet, cranky, barking dogs. The only way to keep the dogs quiet was to position ourselves in-between the dogs (every 10 feet) which was fine until the more affectionate ones wanted to snuggle.

At 11:30 PM, we were "attacked" by the military. From all directions, they came in a text-perfect assault with beams of flashlights and weapons pointed directly at us. Very few questions were asked and they certainly weren’t there for a fireside chat. Fortunately our predicament was conveyed quickly and we escaped with just elevated heart rates. At about 1:30 AM, just when sleep was beginning to look like a possibility, it began to rain. We hustled the dogs back into town into our original staging area.

Sleep was not to be had as the dogs barked continuously throughout the night. I feared that the locals or military would soon show up to quiet the dogs. At first light, we prepared animals and rescuers for what promised to be a challenging packing act. The helicopter arrived at 9:30 AM and crates, gear and personnel were loaded in less than seven minutes.

We were packed in like sardines with crates and animal stacked to the ceiling and many of the large dogs held in our laps or on our shoulders. I doubt that we could have gotten one more animal in there and still kept the peace. What a sight it must have been at unloading as the doors flew open and out popped, 70 animals and 20 people.

As is the case for all disasters, I wish that I could have done more and stayed longer but AHA’s mission was very successful in that rescue workers had received a quick lesson on principles of effective leadership, organization, and safety.

Dr. Green is the Emergency Animal Relief Manager for the American Humane Association. His e-mail address is

Please contact author for permission to duplicate.

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California Creates Rescue Centers for Oiled Wildlife

by Dean J. Monti

Reprinted with permission from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, October 15, 1999

Aquatic birds, sea turtles, sea otters, and other marine mammals can become indistinguishable from each other when coated with a layer of life-choking crude oil. When oil spills occur, the rich and variegated colors of nature are covered with a monochromatic miasma of black.

One of the most infamous spills happened in 1989, when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground and leaked 11.2 million gallons of oil into the sea at Alaska’s Prince William Sound. This clash of man-made technology gone wrong with the beauty of our natural resources was addressed in California with the 1990 passage of the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act. This state legislative mandate established rescue and rehabilitation centers for oiled wildlife. Since then, several major centers were established to care for oiled wildlife.

The centers are part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, based

out of UC Davis, a collaborative program between the School of Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis, and the California Depart-ment of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response. The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is made up of rehabilitation organizations, academic institutions, and scientific institutions. The network includes wildlife veterinarians Dr. David Jessup, Dr. Scott Newman, and Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, who are ready for oil spill response around the clock.

On March 24, the 10th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez accident, a groundbreaking ceremony took place in San Diego for the SeaWorld Oiled Wildlife Care Center, the latest addition to the network. The new, 2.600-square-foot center at SeaWorld, expected to be completed in 2000, will house 200 birds and include examination and treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pens, and pools. Facilities will be available for birds to be examined, cleaned, and given fluids and activated charcoal to absorb and eliminate toxins when rescued from oiled waters.

Dr. Jonna Mazet, wildlife veterinarian and director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, believes the new center will further strengthen the network’s ability to serve Southern California. "The availability of permanent facilities improves the care of the animals and, hopefully, their survival."

Dr. Mazet explained what a typical response entails: "When a spill happens, in San Diego, for instance, usually the responsible party or a state or federal agency will call, and we can initiate a response. we also call the International Bird Rescue Research Center, housed out of Berkeley, and they, with SeaWorld, do search and collection at the affected beaches. Live birds are given physical exams and assigned individual treatments by veterinarians. We log the dead and stabilize the live until they are strong enough to withstand washing and rehabilitation. After 10 to 14 days they are released into the wild, provided they’re able to swim and fly and can forage."

If the spill occurs in an isolated area and transport to one of the facilities might be more than an hour, the network can set up a mobile veterinary hospital on-site, so that the animals can be stabilized before transport. The increasing number of providers in the network has improved response time. "In the San Diego and Los Angeles areas it’s usually not necessary. Because we’re spread out around the state, we can usually get anywhere we need to within two hours."

Now, centers participating in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network appear all along the California coastline, as far south as SeaWorld in San Diego and as far north as the North Coast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City. For more information, visit the website of the network,

The network is building two new International Bird Rescue Research Center facilities, one in San Pedro, and one in Cordelia, and those facilities will be the primary provider of bird rescue for those areas. International Bird Rescue Research Center was one of the main providers during the Exxon Valdez crisis.

Dr. Mazet said the facilities are built for additional uses between oil spills. The new SeaWorld facility, for example, will also be used for other types of wild bird rehabilitation.

"We are building the San Pedro facility on the land of a Los Angeles unified school district. A full-time teacher will be assigned to that facility, and it will be used as an educational tool for kindergarten through 12th-grade education," Dr. Mazet said. Its "secondary use," 95 per cent of the time, is to educate students in the Los Angeles County school district about marine environment, pollution, conservation, and recycling. "We will have an ongoing seabird rehabilitation program there, so that the students can see and interact with the rehabilitators and learn about birds. All our facilities have these joint uses."

In addition to oil spills, the network is prepared to deal with spills involving non-crude-oil substances, such as organic oil and vegetable oil. Spills involved with shipping are also common. The network wants to be prepared for any eventuality.

"There are approximately 350 spills a year that require cleanup, but they don’t all affect wildlife. Between 1997 and 1998, however, we had 11 spills affecting wildlife. During that time we took in about 4,000 birds (euthanized many), and released about 2000. We basically went from one spill to another."

According to Dr. Mazet, regardless of the fact that oil companies had increased preventative measures placed on them since the Exxon Valdez (and other) accidents, and are complying, spills appear inevitable. "Most things are accidents and human error. There’s not a lot we can do about it. As long as we drive cars, we’ll need to be concerned about oil spills."

With the addition of the latest facilities and the new SeaWorld facility, however, Dr. Mazet feels the state will be well prepared. "We think these facilities will be sufficient to take care of the state of California."

All the facilities have been strategically placed to serve California. In the case of Humboldt County, site selection turned out to be prophetic. In February 1997, the Marine Wildlife Care Center was established at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, for treating oiled birds as part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

Later that same year, on November 5, Humboldt Bay experienced its first crisis, when about 4,600 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the Panamanian vessel M/V Kure after it struck a concrete piling. Species of affected birds included grebes, murres, scoters, loons, shorebirds, scaups, fulmars, gulls, brown pelicans, and the threatened marbled murrelets. In all, more than 500 live birds weree taken to the center and treated.

As JAVMA went to press, the Humboldt area was experiencing yet another substantial spill September 6 when a dredge arm on the 375-foot hopper dredge Stuyvesant punctured one of its fuel tanks, polluting

the coastal waters off Humboldt Bay. When contacted, Dr. Rick Golightly, facility director for Humboldt State University, reported the facility was in full-response mode. "This is the second spill in this area in two years," he said, as he lamented the irony of the statement: if you build it, they will come.

Just days prior to the latest spill, Dr. Mazet had told JAVMA, "Unfortunately, these facilities have proved themselves necessary."

Please contact JAVMA for permission to duplicate.

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Planning for a Terrorist Chemical Attack

Knowledge Is the Key

by Ted Jarboe

Reprinted from the January 2000 IAEM Bulletin with the permission of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

More than four years ago, on March 20, 1995, the Tokyo subway system was the scene of a deadly sarin attack. This unforgettable and highly publicized attack sounded an "alarm" that terrorists had expand-ed their arsenal of deadly weapons to include lethal chemical agents. Though the nerve agent used in the attack was about 30% pure and the method of dissemination was very poor, it still claimed 11 lives and injured thousands.

The Tokyo Fire Department responded with more than 300 pieces of fire apparatus and nearly 1400 personnel. With these resources, the Fire Department treated 692 victims and transported 688 of them to hospitals. Other victims went to hospitals by automobiles, taxicabs, and buses.

If a similar attack should occur in a city, county, or other community in the U.S., it will quickly tax and probably overwhelm first responders’ resources. It will trigger activation of the local and/or state emergency operations center (EOC). Members of the Emergency Management Group (EMG) who staff and operate the EOC must prepare for the unusual challenges posed by the release of a deadly chemical agent.

The EOC is a critical component in the emergency management of a terrorist chemical attack. Among other things, it serves to locate and coordinate resources requested by first responders, establish a com-munications network with the scene, hospitals, health department, and the state emergency management agency, coordinate response of state and federal assets, and provide and coordinate important information for release to the public.

Each EOC should have reference materials about the different categories of chemical agents (I.e., nerve, blister, blood, and choking). There are many websites on the Internet that contain useful chemical agent-related information. Books and pocket guides are also available from bookstores and other sources. Preparing quick-reference cards or sheets will ensure that essential information is readily available to members of the EMG.

It would behoove the EMG to become more familiar with the char-acteristics, behavior and potential consequences of chemical agents such as sarin. The more knowledge the EMG has about chemical agents, the more competent and confident they will be in planning for and managing a terrorist chemical attack. They will also be a better resource to first responders on the scene of such an incident.

Below are some basic facts to help the uninitiated to become more knowledgeable about nerve agents. Through ongoing study and review, the information will become part of one’s fundamental knowledge of chemical agents.

It is important to note that explosives and toxic industrial chemicals will continue to be common terrorist weapons. Other chemical agents such as blister, blood and choking are also possible terrorist weapons. However, the focus of this article is on the nerve agents.


Nerve agents are the deadliest of the chemical agents. They are very toxic organophosphorus compounds. They are similar to pesticides, but much more lethal. Common nerve agents include tabun (GA), sarin (GB), soman (GD), and VX.

Table: Volatility Comparison of Water and Nerve Agents



sarin (GB)

soman (GD)

tabun (GA)


*Volatility ( mg/m3 )






* approximate amount of agent (mg) that 1 m3 of air can

hold at 25 degrees Centigrade.


Usually exist in liquid form

Heavier than air

Eye, respiratory and skin hazard

Vapor exposure causes immediate symptoms

Signs and Symptoms
Constricted pupils (miosis)

Runny nose rhinorrhea)

Tightness in chest

Coughing, jerking, and twitching

Difficulty breathing

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Convulsions and apnea

Sudden loss of consciousness

With the exception of VX, the "G agents" are non-persistent, i.e., they usually evaporate in a matter of hours, depending on ambient temperature and other factors. Sarin evaporates at about the same rate as water. The other G agents evaporate more slowly. VX has the slowest evaporation rate and, unlike the G agents, is persistent.

It can remain for many hours, days or longer, depending on the temperature. It evaporates about 2,300 times more slowly than water. This is why it is considered more of a liquid-contact hazard than a vapor-inhalation hazard. However, as the temperature of VX liquid increases it will give off more vapors. It could become a vapor hazard, especially in a confined space. See Table, above.


Learning more about chemical agents will expand the comfort zone of emergency managers. It will help them to better appreciate and understand the likely challenges and needs of first responders. In turn, members of the EMG would be better prepared to manage the EOC.

Nerve agents are one of several categories of chemical weapons. It is incumbent upon emergency managers to develop a working knowledge of all categories of these lethal agents. To ignore such an

opportunity may come back to haunt them, should chemical weapons strike their community.

Ted Jarboe, CEM —Montgomery County Emergency Management, Rockville, MD

The International Association of Emergency Managers website is Please contact IAEM for permission to duplicate.

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Company tied to European cyanide spill seeks protection

St. Louis Post-Dispatch—March 17, 2000

(Ed note: Please see cyanide spill article, this issue of the AAVDM Newsletter.)

Poisonous algae killed more than 400 California sea lions in 1998.

70 sea lines initially survived, but exhibited signs of domoic acid poisoning. Domoic acid attacks the brain. A related alga caused illness in people, and death in marine life in Canada during 1987.

Source: ProMED, January 5, 2000

President Clinton will seek $340 million for research on exotic zoonosis and animal disease research.

About $40 million of this request would be used for a new research facility in New York.

Source: ProMED, January 18, 2000

A disease causing elephants to lose control of their trunks, resulting in eating and communicating difficulties, may be caused by a toxic plant.

Floppy trunk disease, formerly called flaccid trunk syndrome, moves up from the tip of the trunk and eventually causes total paralysis.

Source: ProMED, February 22, 2000

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Editor's Notes:

(The Reader's Survey, Membership Application, JVECCS contents, and Resources sections that are included in the print edition are not included here.)

The AAVDM Newsletter is produced by the American Academy on Veterinary Disaster Medicine. Viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of the Academy or its administration. Newsletter contents may be copied by anyone if attribution to the AAVDM Newsletter is given—unless the words "Please contact source for permission to duplicate" is stated at the end of the item. Articles and announcements are welcome. Closing dates are the last dates of February, May, August, and November. Maximum article length is 900 words. Please attach reprint permission if your submission has been published elsewhere. E-mail copy-paste submissions are appreciated, but please do not attach downloads. No payment, but three contributor copies are given.

Cecily Westermann, editor—3275 Jasper Park—St. Louis, MO 63139FAX 314-781-2594—E-mail

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Copyright, 2000.  Wayne E. Wingfield, DVM
Last updated:  04/06/00