Rescuing pets left stranded after Cyclone Gabrielle

Friday 24 February 2023

Massey’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) have recently returned from Hawke’s Bay, having been deployed to help rescue pets stranded by Cyclone Gabrielle.

The VERT team who helped out in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The team, comprised of volunteers from Tāwharau Ora - School of Veterinary Science and staff from other parts of the university, was initially deployed to Tāmaki Makarau Auckland, where they worked alongside HUHANZ to help with the temporary animal shelter set up in Ardmore.

The team’s first few days consisted of vet checks and decontamination protocols, which involved cleaning animals that had been swimming or standing in floodwaters. They also spent some noisy nights sleeping at the shelter!

VERT member Patrice Palleson-Putt, who is a Lecturer in Veterinary Education, says while in Auckland it became apparent how widespread and devastating the flooding was in Hawke’s Bay, which led to the team being redeployed by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to Hastings and the surrounding area.

“Almost immediately we were tasked with evacuating and conducting technical rescue of animals that were understandably left behind when the cyclone came though on the Monday night. Our team successfully evacuated 14 dogs, five cats, six goldfish, one horse, four sheep and two chickens. The most challenging of these was a dog stranded on a rooftop, and three sheep on another,” she says.

In a combined effort with Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and the Hawke’s Bay SPCA, all animals were returned to solid ground and reunited with their owners or taken to the HUHANZ temporary animal shelter.

Team member Dr Neroli Thomson says it was heart-warming to hear of people reuniting with their pets in the face of such overwhelming devastation.

“One owner reunited with their dog was overcome with emotion, saying ‘I’ve lost everything, but now I have everything.’”

The team returned to Palmerston North five days after their initial deployment. Seven VERT members were deployed in total and were able to conduct evacuations and technical rescues because of their training in swift water response, high angle rope rescue and technical large animal rescue.

Dr Thomson says they returned home tired, but pleased to have been able to help the affected communities.

“The team worked alongside the incredible organisations HUHANZ and SPCA Hawke’s Bay, and there were a number of Massey staff who facilitated the deployment, including those who took extra workload while their colleagues were away. We also want to acknowledge the Hawke’s Bay community who saw the full effects of the cyclone. It was a pleasure to be able to assist where we could.”

VERT is a non-profit organisation and relies on donations to operate. If you could like to contribute towards their ongoing rescue efforts, please click here and select the Vet Emergency Response Team Fund from the dropdown box.

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