Volunteer vets lend a hand in fire-affected communities

Australian Veterinary Association's (AVA) Victorian Division President David Middleton and Agriculture Victoria’s Kevin Cross organise supplies for veterinarians in field.

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

Agriculture Victoria welcomed support from the Australian Veterinary Association to help farmers impacted by this summer’s fires.

Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) supplied vets to join Agriculture Victoria field teams who have worked their way across more than a thousand burnt properties to help farmers assess livestock.

The call out from AVA resulted in over 700 veterinarians from across the country offering to volunteer their time to treat animals impacted by fire, including livestock, companion animals and wildlife.

Twelve AVA vets were deployed to North-East Victoria to help Agriculture Victoria staff undertake animal health assessments and to assist with euthanising suffering animals and providing animal health advice to farmers. There have also been vets deployed to Mallacoota to assist with burnt wildlife and ensure a vet is accessible to locals to examine and assess the health of their pets.

Scott Parry from North-West New South Wales was one of the first vets deployed to team up with Agriculture Victoria.

With a background in working with primary producers and livestock, he wanted to contribute to the fire response. His role included assessing animals, triaging cases and making decisions on outcomes.

“It was really good to work along the Agriculture Victoria staff. It’s always a challenge to integrate into new roles quickly, but we were made to feel very welcome,” Mr Parry said.

Group of eight volunteers standing in group and smiling at camera.

“Previously I’d done a bit of flood work and disease investigations, which aren’t nearly as confronting. This response had a level of brutality with the amount of loss, but there’s a sense of satisfaction to contributing and seeing the strength of communities and producers, many of whom have lost infrastructure or livestock.”

AVA Victorian Division President David Middleton helped set up a distribution centre from the State Agriculture Relief Centre which is providing vet supplies to fire-affected areas.

An overwhelming amount of vet supplies has been donated from several generous companies, organisations, hospitals, vet clinics and the public to service injured and displaced animals. Supplies from the distribution centre are available to vets, carers and local government relief centres on an as-needs basis and to support animal welfare organisations to carry out the valuable work they need to do.

Mr Middleton said the close working partnership between the Victorian Government and the AVA is delivering real, on-the-ground support to the bushfire response.  

“The AVA’s role in providing private veterinarians and coordinating the distribution of veterinary supplies to the front line is making a real difference,” Mr Middleton said.

“This partnership is unique in Australia and is a wonderful example of the public and private sectors working together to meet the needs for animal welfare.”

Agriculture Victoria State Emergency Animal Welfare Commander Matt Ward said the partnership with AVA was working seamlessly.

“The collaboration is the result of solid relationships and planning through the Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Committee and arrangements driven by the Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Plan,” Mr Ward said.

“It really is a team effort from all involved and is the result of goodwill and hard work from all who have donated, assisted in coordination and delivery on ground to animals in need.”

Vets, farmers and animal carers in need of animal health supplies should email susan.chandler@ava.com.au. Freight will be coordinated from the Agriculture Victoria Incident Management Team to the nearest animal relief centre or safe/accessible location.