Disaster relief veterinarians honored by Iowa Veterinary Medical Association

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University faculty and staff who took part in the effort to care for displaced animals during this summer's floods in eastern Iowa and tornado in northern Iowa were part of the group honored by the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association with the 2008 Meritorious Service Award.

The award for "Spirit of Service" is given to those in the veterinary profession who act with no thought of gain -- only the welfare of animals during times of great need.

Iowa State University had 12 volunteers take part in the eastern Iowa effort to care for almost 1,300 animals that were homeless, abandoned or whose owners could no longer care for them. A smaller group helped in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Butler County.

The effort included hundreds of work hours and trips to Cedar Rapids and Parkersburg for the ISU volunteers to help with the effort to treat sick animals and keep the healthy ones from getting sick.

A third-year veterinary medicine student from Chicago, Katherine Polack learned much from the experience.

"Helping out during these floods provided me with first-hand experience in how animal needs must be addressed on a large scale during such disasters," said Polack.

Dr. Claudia Baldwin, an associate professor in veterinary clinical sciences, made several trips to the shelters to help direct the efforts.

"In all, more than 40,000 hours were spent by people helping out after the floods," says Baldwin. "The hours contributed by Iowa State volunteers are hard to measure, but they had a significant impact."

Veterinarians from all over the state and across the country responded to the need for help, and many local residents pitched in as well.

"It was great to see the community pull together as a whole to help out with volunteering, donations, and in any other way they could," said Polack. "Pets being reunited with their owners were also emotional events for all involved.

"My most memorable moment was when a group of young children approached the front desk of the animal intake building with a box full of spare change that they had collected from a lemonade stand to raise money for the animals at the shelter."