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Fort Valley: Home to nation's only emergency animal facility

The 7,800 square foot State Animal Facility for Emergencies, or SAFE, opened in 2012 and has quickly become an important part of any emergency response equation / WGXA

FORT VALLEY, Ga. -- Fort Valley State University is home to a unique department that often gains statewide and national attention.

The 7,800 square foot State Animal Facility for Emergencies, or SAFE, opened in 2012 and has quickly become an important part of any emergency response equation.

"Everything from hurricanes to tornadoes, or if one of the local animal control facilities has a disease outbreak, we've been activated for that several times," said George McCommon, department head and associate professor of veterinary science. "We are the only dedicated facility in the United States to that is specifically set up for animals in an emergency."

Hurricane Matthew's wind, rain and waves sent a large assortment of animals inland to SAFE for safekeeping, including bobcats, foxes, birds of prey, raptors, small mammals and barnyard animals.

The animals were from the Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah, only five feet above sea level. They were forced to evacuate during the hurricane.

Following Matthew, much of the zoo was covered in debris, but no animals were hurt or killed. They were safe in Fort Valley.

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