The unfortunate disasters in Alberta, California, and Florida clearly show that many people were willing to go to great lengths to rescue their animals – many risking serious personal injury or worse. When any disaster strikes, an “incident involving animals” can quickly become an “incident involving people who are trying to save the animals.” The public has strong expectations when it comes to animal welfare and proper training for emergency large animal rescue is a crucial element. First responders in Ontario now have an increased level of knowledge thanks to over 30 keen, hardy participants and an experienced team of trainers.
Presented by Equine Guelph and the Meaford Fire Department, Nov 17 – 19, their large animal rescue course covered many topics including animal behavior in stressful situations and how to keep handlers and first responders safe. Attention was also paid to keeping the people who own and care deeply about their animals out of harm’s way. Major topics covered included best practices for large animal technical rescue, fire prevention plus personal safety and related animal behavior and care issues.
“We feel strongly that this training is of benefit for all fire departments to help their communities, and we are very proud of the strong relationship that Equine Guelph has developed with Chief Granahan and the Meaford Fire Department and Training Centre so that this training can be offered and developed, says Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph. “The facility at Meaford is excellent and we had a wonderful team of instructors and support crew.”
Classic Towing made $1.25 million worth of equipment available for the course plus very experienced tow operators including the well-known Bubba Semple from the TV show Heavy Rescue 401. McKinnon Transport brought a livestock hauler. Allan McKinnon and Bubba Semple both took part in class presentations explaining the capabilities of their equipment and safety aspects of hauling animals.
“All large animal incidents regardless of cause or scope, present a risk of injury to responders,” says course facilitator, Dr. Susan Raymond in her presentation on best practices. “Through proper training and the use of specialized rescue equipment we significantly mitigate these risks and improve the odds of a favorable outcome for both animals and responders. By keeping responders safe, we improve our capacity to keep animals safe.”
Knowledge, practice and application was the goal attained over the 3-day course. After learning about the incident command system and the equipment they would be using, participants worked through “real-life” scenarios including a mud rescue and several different ways to perform drags, lifts and assists. The anatomy lessons made it clear that tails, legs and necks are not handles and thinking otherwise can produce dreadful or fatal results. Safe attachment methods for straps and support were explained by lead instructor Victor MacPherson,Adjala-Tosorontio District Fire Chief and the assistant instructors.
“The instructors were knowledgeable in their fields and it truly was one of the best courses I’ve ever attended,” said Kris McCarthy, Toronto Mounted Police.
Participants came from Fire Departments in Chatsworth, Ramara, Burlington, Fort Erie, Rideau Lakes, Meaford, Searchmont as well as Mounted Police from Hamilton and Toronto and Ontario Mounted Special Service Unit. Students also included a veterinarian, veterinary technician and horse owners. The hands-on large animal rescue course certainly delivered realistic conditions that first responders might encounter including rain, snow and wind but the damp muddy conditions did not dampen anyone’s enthusiasm to participate in the situations as teams worked together planning and executing safe rescue techniques.
“Equine Guelph has been hosting Large Animal Rescue workshops for four years and this is our second successful course held in Meaford,” says Ecker. “We are pleased with the positive feedback and inquiries for more training coming from communities committed to proactive training to support the health and welfare of horses and livestock in Ontario.”
Equine Guelph extends its thanks to Scott Granahan, Chief of Meaford Fire Department and the team of knowledgeable instructors for the incredible 3-days of training: Victor MacPherson, Susan Raymond, Beverley Sheremeto, Robert Nagle, Wendy McIsaac-Swackhamer, Katherine Hoffman and Chris Watson.
Stay tuned to EquineGuelph.ca for the next course offering announcement.