Livestock rescue requires training, proper equipment

It is a disturbing sight, whether you encounter it on the highway or on the television news.

A livestock trailer is overturned with dead and injured animals. Firefighters, police and other first responders try as best they can to rescue the terrified animal survivors and prevent them from running onto the highway and presenting new traffic dangers.

Almost every food animal will take at least one ride in a truck trailer in its life, and vehicle crashes are unfortunately a reality on our highways.

Livestock transport crash scenes would be less chaotic and safer places if first responders had training in large animal rescue.

So it is great to see that workshops are available from experts in the field.

With its large cattle feeding operations and two big federal beef slaughter plants, it is not surprising that Alberta appears to be most active in the field of training in Western Canada.

To protect livestock and first responders, it would be a good idea if this training and the proper rescue equipment were readily available in every province.

A recent seminar that Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Training conducted in Twin Butte, Alta., provided insights and practical information for anyone involved in livestock transport.

Seminar leader Rebecca Gimenez said that when she and her husband started their company in the 1990s, they expected to focus on veterinarians called in to help rescue animals.

However, it quickly became apparent that the first professionals on the scene of accidents are firefighters and police, and they were hungry for information about how to safely handle livestock involved in road crashes and other dangerous situations.

Animals might also need rescuing when they wander from familiar surroundings and become trapped in mud, fencing wire, holes and even swimming pools.

As well, a more volatile climate appears to be increasing the frequency of floods, fires and tornadoes, where animal rescue is also often needed.

Animals under stress revert to “fight or flight” panic and can be much more dangerous to humans than they are normally.

For safe rescue, an understanding of animal behavior and knowledge of recommended procedure can be of immense help.

Sometimes the best course of action is to simply help the animal extricate itself from dangerous situations by removing obstacles or opening gates.

However, other situations require specialized equipment.

Alberta Farm Animal Care worked with other livestock organizations and used financial assistance from the federal-provincial Growing Forward program to buy a fleet of livestock emergency rescue trailers and station them around the province.

The trailers are loaded with equipment to help free and corral livestock at crash or emergency scenes. They contain corral panels, generators, saws, plywood and snow fencing.

It would be a good idea to have such trailers distributed across Canada, close to key animal transport routes, to make animal rescuers’ jobs easier.

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