Eight cattle paraded across the highway near Antioch this May causing a traffic jam that lasted close to four and a half hours.
When the fire department arrived, the lights and sounds spooked the cattle into scattering and running for their lives into Interstate 680. Four out of the eight cattle were shot multiple times by the highway patrol officers and the sheriff’s department.
Earlier this March, a trailer holding two adult horses tipped over on Interstate 5 resulting in one horse on top of the other. Highway patrol officers hesitated to open the trailer doors in case the horses became loose on the highway. Ultimately, the bottom horse died due to the prolonged pressure of the horse on top.
Dr. John Madigan, director of the International Animal Welfare Training Institute (IAWTI) at UC Davis, said both of these situations could have been avoided if the officials were educated about animal behavior and simple handling techniques. Madigan created the Emergency Services Protocol this year in response to the mishandling of large animal accidents.
“The purpose of the [Emergency Services Protocol] is to have a coordinated response to accidents on the highway that involve large animals,” Madigan said.
Inspired by the British Emergency Services Protocol, this program trains fire departments and veterinarians in large animal technical rescue – for instance, the procedure required to extract a horse or cattle from a ditch. The UC Davis program is working with the UC Davis and Sacramento Fire Departments.
Cheryl Ellis, the Veterinary Emergency Response Team student president, conducted the first training session this Monday along with other trainers. The session focused on basic technical skills such as how to make a halter for a horse out of rope, how to roll a down horse and safety techniques.
“We taught everybody how to safely roll a horse keeping in mind the safety zone around the horse, or the ‘kill zone,‘” said Ellis, a third-year UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine student. “If you were to walk near a [down horse’s] belly between its legs, that’s called the ‘kill zone‘ [because] if that horse should try to jump up and you’re not expecting it, you could easily get killed.“
Trainers also integrated the Incident Command System, a protocol procedure already used by the fire department.
“Say you have five horses all down stuck in the mud, then you would have one incident commander, five operations officers and five safety officers – one for each horse – and they’re running that particular scene,” Ellis said. “What often has happened in the past is that if you get people around a rescue situation, you have too many chiefs around the fire and everyone is trying to do it their own way. So, the ICS is a great way to know who’s in charge.“
Tracy Stevens, the deputy director of the IAWTI, is in the process of creating a “matrix” of partnerships with the different emergency response agencies so the program is a multi-agency coordination.
“[The matrix is] so that in the event of a disaster, whether on a small localized or a large scale, all of the animal components are connected such as animal control, the fire department, office of emergency services,” Stevens said.
Safety is highly stressed in the training sessions.
“We know that if a horse owner’s there, they’re going to put themselves in danger trying to rescue their own horse,” Stevens said. “We want to [work] in combination with the fire department, the police and the animal control officers to help rescue that horse, and by doing that, we [also] keep the owners safe.“
“One of Dr. Madigan’s goals,” Ellis said, “is to have the [veterinary students] graduate from this university and then go to wherever [they’re] going to go to make a living and start teaching this sort of rescue training to the local fire department and the local community there and have a snowball effect.“
UC Davis is the third largest animal technical rescue group in the country with this type of teaching program.
POOJA DEOPURA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VERT training Nov. 10, 2008