Veterinarian Intercession in Disaster Relief

Pashu Sandesh, 31st December 2018

Pavan Kumar Mittal, G.S.Gottam, Vijay Sharma, Barkha Gupta


The disaster defined by the World Health Organization as ‘any incident that causes damage, economic destruction, loss of human life as well as  animals life and deterioration in health and health services on a scale sufficient to warrant an extraordinary response from outside the affected community or area’. It is an event, concentrated in time and space, which causes social, economical, cultural and political ruin and which affects both inpidual people and communities (Kumar P, 1998).

Types of disasters

Disasters can be classified according to what causes them, as natural disasters, i.e. the result of natural circumstances, or man-made disasters, i.e. the result of man’s involvement or non- involvement. Natural disasters account for nearly 80% of all disasters that occur in the world such as flash floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Blizzards, ice storms, Wildfires, Avalanches, drought etc.

Disasters can also be categorized, according to their impact, as localized, widespread, major or minor, and also, predictable or unpredictable.

Impact of disasters

The impact of a disaster can be classified as direct, indirect or tertiary. Besides from the public health conclusions of disasters, such as zoonotic diseases and the hazard to the food supply, disasters also have negative economic results, particularly in developing countries. In these countries, not only do livestock provide meat, milk and transport, dung, hides, wool etc., animals also provide a relatively safe investment option and give the owner social importance (Rushton J., Thornton P.K. & Otte M.J., 1999). Disasters affecting livestock can therefore have a negative impact on the infrastructure of a country, decreasing an important source of income in rural areas and hampering the distribution of food and goods.

India and disasters

India is one of the top four most disaster-prone areas in the world. India has, a tropical climate, all types of natural disaster experiences, except volcanic activity (Ganguli S.K., Urmil A.C. & Somiya P.A., 1993). The floods, earthquakes, droughts and cyclones’ frequency is increasing every year. In India, twenty-two states are disaster prone among the thirty-two States and Union Territories. 58% of the total area is prone to earthquakes; 28% of the total cultivable land is prone to drought. The country can be classified into five sub-pisions according to disaster affinity, as follows (Unnikrishnan B. & Malavika A.S. 1998).

  1. The northern mountain region of India is mainly prone to snow storms resulting in landslides and cold waves, heavy rainfall, and land and soil degradation. 
  2. The Indo-Gangetic plains of India are a common incident of floods here.
  3. The Deccan plateau region is prone to drought and has irregular and heavy rainfall. Varying degrees of Earthquakes have also been reported in this area.
  4. The western desert area of India, also called as the Thar Desert, has limited and erratic rainfall and this area are prone to drought.
  5. The coastal areas are endangered to sea erosion, cyclones, and tidal waves.

Care of livestock 

Disaster alertness is important for all animals, particularly important for livestock because of the size of these animals and the requirements needed to transport them and shelter them (Humane Society of the United States, 2001). Livestock owners should strictly follow regulations for the local construction for animal houses; these regulations vary from area to area, depending on the type of disaster prevalent in that area. In case of any emergency or disaster, the following techniques should be adopted for care of animals.

  1. A local emergency management committee should be prepared by the local people.
  2. A safe shelter for farm animals and a disaster plan and facilities should be prepared already to protect animals in emergency conditions.
  3. Animals should be removed and taken to shelter as soon as there is news of an imminent disaster. Every animal must have some form of visible identification marking, e.g. the animals should be branded or tagged.
  4. The community should have proper arrangements for appropriate transport for specific animals.
  5. A farm disaster kit should be arranged in advance so that supplies are readily available in the incident of a disaster. The farm disaster kit should be placed in a central location and everyone in the community should know where it is. The kit contents must be checked regular interval to ensure fresh and complete supplies. The following objects should be included in the disaster kit that is used every day.
  • A complete list of all animals with identification, including their location along with feeding, vaccination and tests records.
  • Supplies for the temporary recognition of animals, such as tags, livestock markers and paints.
  • A basic first aid kit.
  • Livestock handling equipment, such as halters, cages, ropes etc.
  • Feed, water and a bucket.
  • The tools and supplies which are needed for sanitation during disaster.
  • Other safety and emergency items for transportation during disaster such as vehicles and trailers, e.g. extra tyres, winches, tools, etc.
  1. Stranded animals should be rescued and taken to safer places during disaster. 

Sastry N.S.R., (1994 suggested the building of multi-purpose animal shelters in flood/cyclone-prone areas. They are very effective in protecting animals during disaster such as cyclones and floods. They can be used as fodder stores in other times. Veterinary centers where technical experts can provide advice and training for disaster in animal management, vaccine awareness and disease prevention.

Role of veterinarians during disaster:

There is huge role of veterinarians to ensure high standards of animal health during disasters. Veterinarians can also plays a major role in assisting pre-disaster planning at community level, which places a high priority on facilitating livestock and pet shifting (Heath S.E. 2000). Another role of veterinarians is to play in all stages of disaster reduction and proper management, but it is during relief efforts that they can play a critical role in increasing the survivability of animals that are sufferer, and of those that are situated in rescue teams. The contribution of veterinarians will be most beneficial if they merge their expertise with national and international groups and other local agencies involved in disaster management (Heath S.E. 2000).


In developing countries such as in India, the disasters are very common phenomenon occuring every year round.  When disaster strikes, the poor communities suffer most in terms of human and property loss and also, their capacity to recover from disaster is restricted by the social, economic and political conditions in which they live. In many developing countries the community’s mechanisms for facing disaster are not efficient to meet the challenges. This results in the drastic loss of human and livestock which could be saved, if alertness, response and proper mitigation measures were in order. In terms of disaster alertness, developing countries are far away from the developed nations. 


Ganguli S.K., Urmil A.C. & Somiya P.A. (1993). – Natural disasters: an overview in Indian context. Ind. J. Commun. Med., 18 (3), 110-113.

Heath S.E. (2000). – Building an animal disaster program. Outbreak Symposium at AVMA 2000 Documents ( accessed on 22 February 2002).

Heath S.E. (2000). – The role of veterinarians in disasters. World Veterinary Association Press Release, Washington, DC (; accessed on 22 February 2002).

Humane Society of the United States (2001). – Disaster preparedness for livestock. The Humane Society of the United States, Washington, DC ( accessed on 21 February 2002).

Kumar P. (1998). Community participation in natural disaster management. In Proc. National Conference on Disaster and Technology, 25-26 September, Manipal, India. Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal, 107-109.

Rushton J., Thornton P.K. & Otte M.J. (1999). – Methods of economic impact assessment. In The economics of animal disease control (B.D. Perry, ed.) Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 18 (2), 315-342.

Sastry N.S.R. (1994). – Managing livestock sector during floods and cyclones. J. rural Dev. (Hyderabad), 13 (4), 583-592.

Unnikrishnan B. & Malavika A.S. (1998). – Natural disasters: a public health perspective. In Proc. National Conference on Disaster and Technology, 25-26 September, Manipal, India. Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal, 110-112.

1Pavan Kumar Mittal, 2G.S.Gottam, 3Vijay Sharma, 4Barkha Gupta

1,2,4,Department of Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry, 3Department of Veterinary Veterinary Public Health and Epidemiology,  Post Graduate Institute of Veterinary Education and Research, Jaipur, Rajasthan-302031.

*Corresponding Author: Pavan Kumar Mittal, Department of Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry, Post Graduate Institute of Veterinary Education and Research, Jamdoli, Agra Road, NH-11, Jaipur, Rajasthan, E-mail: