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Katherine Waters tends to a cat in Cedar Rapids.

Katherine Waters, one of the veterinarians in the Medical Reserve Corps, tends to a cat in Cedar Rapids.

Medical Reserve Corps aids pets in flood-ravaged Iowa

Veterinarians and students helping care for abandoned and stranded animals

July 2, 2008

The University of Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has deployed two teams of veterinarians and students to flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help care for nearly 650 displaced animals.

Most of animals are domestic pets, such as cats and dogs, but some are exotic animals, such as ferrets and reptiles. Most of the animals were either abandoned or in need of temporary housing until they can be cared for again.

The group was charged with examining the overall health of the animals, determining necessary treatment, administering treatment and vaccines, and monitoring for infectious diseases, a concern when large numbers of animals are housed together for the first time.

The first group to assist returned July 1, after four days in Cedar Rapids. A second left June 30 and will return July 3. University MRC officials and shelter administrators are currently reviewing the need for additional assistance beyond July 3.

"These animals are in a stressful situation, and so are the people caring for them. I am happy that we have been able to help," said Larissa Minicucci, a veterinarian and leader of the first group. "Our ability to stay in Cedar Rapids for four days allowed our team to provide a continuity of care, and that has made an enormous difference for the animals and people."

The animals are being cared for in a makeshift shelter in three buildings at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, after the existing animal shelter was ruined in the flooding.

"The University of Minnesota MRC was created as a way to organize and rapidly deploy University health professionals to respond to emergencies on campus or provide assistance in the broader community," said Jill DeBoer, director of the Academic Health Center Office of Emergency Response, which houses the U of M Medical Reserve Corps. "As part of the MRC, personnel from our College of Veterinary Medicine have established a Veterinary Response Team specifically prepared to respond to animal health emergencies. We are pleased to have this opportunity to provide assistance to colleagues in Iowa."

The U of M MRC, one of several in the state, has roughly 1,000 members, including students, staff, and faculty from across the Academic Health Center, as well as staff from Boynton Health Service.

Since its creation in 2004, members have provided support to a statewide influenza phone bank, assisted in hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region, provided medical and behavioral health services following the I-35W bridge collapse, and assisted in the community of Cottonwood following the tragic school bus accident in February 2008. This is the first time the Veterinary Response Team has been deployed.


For more information about the Medical Reserve Corps, visit the MRC Web site.