The veterinary medical education system faces increasing challenges in educating students in the most current technologies while responding to changing community needs and expectations. Communities expect veterinarians to be involved in disaster management at some level. The purpose of this study was to describe the level of disaster preparedness and educational needs of veterinary practitioners in Mississippi. A survey was mailed to 706 practitioners to assess disaster plans, disaster training, and familiarity with disaster-related organizations. Forty-three percent of veterinarians had a clinic disaster plan. Veterinary practitioners who had experienced a disaster were more likely to have a personal plan (odds ratio [OR] = 4.55, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.47-8.37) and a clinic plan (OR = 4.11, 95% CI = 2.28-7.44) than those who had not. Veterinarians residing in Mississippi Gulf Coast counties were more likely to have a personal plan (OR = 3.62, 95% CI = 1.54-8.72) and a clinic plan (OR = 3.09, 95% CI = 1.35-7.21) than were those residing in other areas. Only 17% of veterinarians had assistance agreements with other practices, and few veterinarians indicated having disaster education materials available for their clients. Twenty percent of respondents indicated having obtained formal disaster training, and more than two-thirds of respondents were interested in receiving disaster training, mostly in the form of online delivery. Results suggest that private veterinary practitioners have the desire and need to obtain disaster education. Providing opportunities for both veterinarians and veterinary students to obtain education in disaster management will result in better overall community disaster preparedness.
Keywords: animal disasters; disaster education; disaster preparedness.