IAWTI Courses Help Responders Handle Livestock Emergencies

A horse trapped in a canyon; a bull escaped from its pasture; a wild animal injured by a car--these and other incidents pose dangers to animals and people. When emergency personnel arrive on the scene, will they be prepared to help while protecting the safety of their crews and members of the public?

In conjunction with the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security, members of the International Animal Welfare Training Institute (IAWTI), from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), School of Veterinary Medicine, presented two training sessions, Aug. 24 and 25, to prepare first responders to address such incidents with an eye toward public safety and animal welfare.

"First Responder Guidelines to Equine Emergencies" introduced first responders to the safest measures when dealing with down, injured, trapped, and loose horses. Members of IAWTI covered communications protocols, equine behavior, restraint techniques, and lifts. Participants learned about the incident command system, which establishes responsibilities and communications channels when multiple organizations respond to an emergency. At practice stations located at the school's teaching hospital, participants received one-on-one instruction to learn procedures such as haltering a horse to guide it away from danger and using "skids" or other equipment to help move an incapacitated animal.

"Loose Livestock, Injured Wildlife, and Emergency Animal Euthanasia" focused on the safest measures of dealing with loose or downed livestock and trapped or injured wildlife. First responders learned how to approach livestock or wildlife; capture and immobilize animals; protect personal safety; perform suitable methods of humane euthanasia; and understand laws related to disposal of euthanized animals. At one demonstration station, course members familiarized themselves with different types of darting equipment used to tranquilize an animal.

About 20 emergency responders participated in the two sessions; the group included police officers, fire fighters, animal services personnel, disaster response personnel, and others with or without previous animal handling experience.

The August classes followed two other courses held in July. One more session is planned to teach the veterinary aspects of sheltering animals in emergencies.

John Madigan, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, director of IAWTI, says, "Faculty and IAWTI staff developed these protocols based on veterinary rescue expertise and protocols developed for clinical settings. The Department of Homeland Security funded the pilot projects with an eye toward future levels of training. If the series is approved, future courses would emphasize 'train the trainer' sessions for emergency personnel throughout the country."

The UC Davis International Animal Welfare Training Institute aims to educate and prepare veterinary students, community volunteers, agency representatives, and emergency responders in the humane treatment of animals during emergency or disaster situations.

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