The Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) partnered with local Ouachita Parish officials and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to rescue and evacuate a geriatric horse from the rising floodwaters of the Ouachita River on Nov. 9, 2009, in West Monroe, La. Horse owner Tess Cooper had contacted her veterinarian, Dr. Jay Wharford, and asked for his assistance in moving the horse from flooded land near her home to dry ground where he could receive care and food.

Wharford contacted LSART Equine Branch Director, Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, of the Equine Health Studies Program (EHSP) at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (LSU SVM), for assistance. From there, McConnico and LSART Director Renee Poirrier, DVM, coordinated with parish officials, and a plan was put into place to coordinate the rescue using a pontoon boat provided by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries before the threatening Hurricane Ida hit coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico (possibly including areas of Louisiana already flooded).

Doc on island
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Doc on his impromptu "island," and safe back on dry ground with his owner and vet.

The LSART team met with Parish Animal Control Officers and Wildlife & Fisheries agents to plan their approach.

McConnico called for the team to boat over to the location where the horse was stranded to further refine the operations plan. They reviewed the situation and performed a thorough physical exam on the horse, a more than 25-year-old Quarter Horse named "Doc." The veterinarians determined Doc was healthy enough to withstand general anesthesia and a boat ride to dry ground. They advised his owner of the possible risks of anesthesia and boat transport, as well as the possibility of halting the mission in the event of human life endangerment.

Doc received an intravenous catheter while the team reviewed how to place the approximately 1,000 pound horse onto the glide (a large animal stretcher) and up onto the boat once he was on the ground under general anesthesia. A veterinarian sedated Doc using intravenous anesthesia, then, with the aid of six glide handlers, the horse was maneuvered onto the glide and secured in place using nylon webbing. Reinforced plywood was positioned to act as a ramp to move the horse onto the pontoon boat, which was about three feet off of the ground/water. Several assistants helped the horse move up onto the boat and within minutes was cruising south on the Ouachita River toward Bayou D'Arbonne.

The veterinary team maintained the horse under general anesthesia and monitored his strong and regular peripheral pulse. Upon arrival at Griffin's Boat Dock at Bayou D'Arbonne, they moved him down the ramp onto a flat grassy surface where he was released from the webbing that keeps the horse secured to the glide. The horse recovered uneventfully and was moved by trailer to a five-acre lot in West Monroe, La.

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