In August 2008 torrential monsoon showers of rain broke the Kosi Barrage dam wall and the massive deluge of water resulted in the worst disaster in the region for over 50 years. Millions of livestock died and suffered terrible injuries, trauma, and stress.
In August 2008 torrential monsoon showers of rain broke the Kosi Barrage dam wall and the massive deluge of water resulted in the worst disaster in the region for over 50 years. Millions of livestock died and suffered terrible injuries, trauma, and stress. World Animal Protection in coordination with the Bihar Veterinary College, Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, local government and other animal welfare organizations provided immediate veterinary aid to the injured animals to stop the spread of disease, and essential food supplements to protect the starving animals. The team jointly intervened and could manage to save only a few animals, and this was when the need for a bigger intervention to protect animals from disasters was realized in India.
Training for animal welfare
In order to comprehensively address the needs of animals affected by disasters and based on World Animal Protection’s Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERU) initiatives in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, in 2009 a similar VERU concept was piloted in Bihar with the goal to train and provide veterinary students the essential knowledge and skills to safely and effectively address the animal welfare needs throughout disaster operations. The course encompasses lectures, group activities, tabletop exercises, skills training, and simulation drills. In 2011, in addition to training veterinary students, Bihar VERU delivered training to veterinary faculties, farmers and disaster management stakeholders. Mock drills for protecting animals from the disaster were organized in coordination with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Fire & Rescue Services, 108 Ambulance Service, Bihar’s Animal Husbandry department, district administration, and local communities. In 2012, Bihar VERU was acknowledged by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and received financial support to organize a 21-day summer school course for veterinary faculties from various veterinary colleges across India.
National Conference on Animal Disaster Management
In 2013, World Animal Protection jointly with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) organized the “National Conference on Animal Disaster Management in New Delhi where more than 100 representatives from Animal Husbandry, Veterinary Institutions, Disaster Management Agencies, Animal Welfare Organizations, International Agencies participated. As an outcome of the conference five more VERUs were established in the veterinary universities of five regions (North – Himachal Pradesh; South – Tamil Nadu; East – Assam; West – Gujarat and Central – Madhya Pradesh) supported by World Animal Protection.
Since 2015 the VERU teams in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have coordinated with stakeholders and intervened during floods to protect animals. In 2016, World Animal Protection supported the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries (DAHDF), Government of India to prepare a National Animal Disaster Management Plan. This plan specifically focusses to benefit the livestock, poultry and fisheries sector which describes the roles of the Department of Animal Husbandry before, during and after any disaster.
In 2019, the Bihar VERU received financial support from the Government of Bihar and have trained more than 1000 government veterinary officers and search and rescue teams in the state. Gujarat VERU jointly with the Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management (GIDM) organized similar trainings. In 2020, Tamil Nadu VERU received financial support from Government of Tamil Nadu and established three more Sub-VERUs in the other 3 veterinary colleges (VERU Namakkal; VERU Orathanad; VERU Thirunelveli) in the State.
Educating Public on protecting animals from disasters
So far, more than 1000 veterinary students have been trained by the six VERUs with support of World Animal Protection. Awareness drives have been organized to educate public on measures to protect animals from disasters. In addition to this, the VERUs have also trained government veterinary officials on management of animals in emergencies and Search & Rescue Teams on animal handling and rescue. Today, three of the six VERUs are well established and have strong relationship with their state governments. They have become self-sustainable and benefit nearly 250 million animals.
What's the goal?
The goal of the initiative was to focus on the six VERUs and make them sustainable within the government’s institutional framework. World Animal Protection continues to receive expressions of interest in replicating the VERUs and so encourages similar initiatives by VERUs and veterinary universities in other states and believe that the Indian veterinary institutions are fully geared-up for protecting the animal welfare needs before, during and after any disaster in the country.
In response to continued need and demand, World Animal Protection has developed an online self-paced course called “PrepVet or Veterinary Preparation”. This covers the topics of the VERU course and encourages individuals to enroll and undertake the course from anywhere. The course is currently available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.