Reserve Veterinary Corps

By Dr. Minden L. Buswell, WSDA Reserve Veterinary Corps Coordinator
Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA)

What is the Reserve Veterinary Corps?

The Reserve Veterinary Corps (RVC) is a body of volunteers willing to help WSDA respond to a crisis affecting animals in our state.

Washington State has a large and robust livestock industry with more than a million head of cattle, 400 dairies, and nearly 12,000 ranches statewide. The animals handled by RVC volunteers, however, could range from large farm animals to small, household pets.

Members of the RVC commonly include veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal health professionals, but other skills, such as foreign language skills or experience in public health, law enforcement, incident command expert, or the military are also sought.

When is it used?

The WSDA Reserve Veterinary Corps exists to provide WSDA with a ready supply of volunteers willing to assist in animal emergency response. The mission of the RVC is to assist the WSDA Animal Services Division in responding to natural disasters such as wildfires or floods, an animal disease outbreak such as avian influenza, or any large-scale incident that requires caring for animals.

Members help with veterinary medical care, evacuations, sheltering, vaccinations, collecting specimens, decontamination, education and outreach, or in some cases even euthanasia and necropsies. For example, the RVC activated in April 2014 to help in the response to a devastating mudslide on State Route 530 in Snohomish County. The RVC members and WSDA veterinarians provided care and treatment for rescue dogs working at the disaster site.


Participation in the RVC is voluntary, but members should be trained on the Incident Command System, a method of organizing and managing large-scale emergency responses. The training is free and provided by WSDA.

Other RVC member trainings include:

  • Foreign animal disease response
  • Hazardous materials awareness
  • Animal decontamination
  • Emergency Animal Sheltering

On average, there are two to four training events each year. In some cases, volunteers are provided a stipend to offset travel the travel costs associated with the training.

Upcoming training

In July 2023, the RVC has a unique two-day training opportunity in Richland, WA. Franklin County Emergency Management is hosting a drill practicing an Emergency Worker Assistance Center (EWAC). The exercise scenario is an airborne release of radioactive materials and workers and residents will be directed to the center to be checked for radioactive contamination, decontaminated if necessary, registered for future health monitoring, and sheltered until evacuation orders are lifted.

Animal decontamination will not be exercised, but RVC members will see how human radiological decontamination centers operate and how animal decontamination could be included and/or mirrored in a similar scenario. Prior to the main exercise, WSDA will host an animal decontamination tabletop training to discuss animal decontamination logistics in a radiological event. This lecture-based training provides RVC members with background information to best assess how animal decontamination could be incorporated into an emergency response.

To learn more about joining the WA RVC visit this page on the WSDA site for more information or call 360-280-6499.