Dr. Lawrence “Larry” Garcia, MS, DVM, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Shelter Medicine and Surgery as well as Medical Director for the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) Team at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Garcia began his career as a general practitioner who transitioned to Shelter Medicine and Surgery in a large, open-admission municipal animal shelter in South Florida. While in this role, Dr. Garcia participated in multiple emergency response drills and assisted with development and updates for county emergency management (ESF-17) protocols and procedures, served at the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the shelter, as well as providing oversight and guidance to both shelter and field operations. After several years, he was recruited to the University of Florida. Upon arrival, he used his knowledge and experience in county shelter operations to create two clerkships in which clinical veterinary students are embedded in municipal animal shelter operations. In addition, he was able to use his county training and experience in emergency management for disaster preparedness and response as the Medical Director for the UF VETS Team. In this role, Dr. Garcia develops medical protocols and procedures, oversees medical equipment and pharmaceutical inventory, and provides team leadership and training. He has provided support to, and instruction in, the Awareness and Operations level Animal Technical Rescue courses offered to veterinary students, veterinarians and first responders. Additionally, he, assists with on-line, graduate level, disaster response courses. He has collaborated with the Florida State Agricultural Response Team on multiple large scale disaster response drills and disaster response deployments.
Hurricane Ian Animal Medical Response, Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities
The University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (UF VETS) team was deployed to Fort Myers on October 3 and remained for 10 days, treating 422 animals in need of care in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The UF VETS team performed health assessments, triaged animals, and provided medical care. While most of the animals seen were dogs and cats, the team also cared for rabbits, a potbellied pig, a couple of bearded dragons and one goat needing a blood transfusion. Many of the animals had gastrointestinal or dermatological issues related to or exacerbated by the storm, or stress associated with the storm and its aftereffects. Some trauma patients were seen as well, including a dog treated for alligator bite wounds. Several kittens that had been found after the storm were brought in for assessment by area residents who hoped to adopt or find homes for them. Five veterinarians, seven veterinary technicians, three veterinary students, and six support personnel participated in the team from UF. Additionally, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and the Florida Veterinary Technicians Association provided 16 volunteer veterinarians and 20 volunteer veterinary technicians from around the state to expand the team’s capacity and help them meet the needs of the Ft. Myers community. A total of 60 volunteers assisted in the effort, representing Lee County Domestic Animal Services.