Australians Attend Kentucky Large-Animal Rescue Training

Large-animal emergency rescue training continues growing in popularity around the globe, according to Mark Cole, managing member for USRider, a roadside assistance plan designed with horse owners in mind. Awareness of the issue was at a far lower ebb in 2002.

"We found that emergency responders, while trained experts in human rescue and extrication, had no training in large-animal rescue," said Cole.

Fast-forward just seven years, and two Australians have won a fellowship to learn large-animal emergency rescue techniques in the United States, and to examine the feasibility of introducing a large-animal rescue service in Australia.

Melinda Howlett, from the National Centre for Equine Education, and Celia Turnbull, BVSc, from Goulburn Ovens Institute of Technical and Further Education, won the inaugural Agri-Food Skills International Fellowship. The award is sponsored by Agrifood Skills Australia, and organized through the International Specialised Skills (ISS) Institute.

An independent, national organization, the ISS Institute identifies and researches "skill deficiencies" and then closes the deficiency through its Overseas Skill Acquisition Plan, its education and training activities, professional development events and business services. The Fellowship is designed to address skills deficiencies within Australia by offering the opportunity for overseas study, so new skills and ideas can be brought back.

Howlett has a background in horse breeding and racing, and Turnbull is a veterinarian. Both are involved in training people in animal and equine industries in Australia through their work with the National Centre for Equine Education in Victoria.

As part of the Fellowship, Howlett and Turnbull traveled from Australia to attend a Technical Large-Animal Rescue training seminar held by USRider and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU).

Since USRider's establishment in January 2002, the company has endeavored to raise awareness of the need for training in large-animal emergency rescue. In 2004, the organization established an endowed fund at EKU to promote large-animal rescue efforts and support related training programs, including annual training sessions geared toward veterinarians, veterinary and pre-vet students, and fire and rescue responders.

The training educates fire/rescue personnel, first responders, veterinarians, and horse enthusiasts about techniques and procedures to assist large animals involved in transportation accidents and other emergencies. Instruction covers the use of sedatives and tranquilizers, chemical restraint, rescue ropes and knots, rescue from horse barn fires, mud rescue, helicopter rescue and water rescue, among other situations.

For the last two years, the training has also included a separate session on HAZMAT decontamination of large animals covering the issues related to rescuing large animals that have encountered chemical, biological, or radiological contamination.

Howlett and Turnbull believe Australian livestock and equine industries will benefit from the introduction of these techniques, by improving the confidence and ability of animal workers and rescue personnel in dealing with animals in emergency situations, improving the welfare and survivability of the animals, and maintaining the safety of all.

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