Emergency preparedness isn’t something most people think of, particularly where their animals are concerned, until the disaster or emergency happens. In the midst of a crisis, they wish they’d been better prepared. Even afterward, the memory of the need fades quickly and people often still aren’t prepared when it happens again. Virginia Cooperative Extension has been working with first responders and animal industry groups to try and encourage people to be ready before it happens to them. 

One of the programs conducted annually in Virginia is the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER) training. This year, nearly 100 fire fighters, animal control officers, veterinarians, and horse owners from Virginia and surrounding states participated in the 2012 TLAER trainings held in Henrico and Middleburg in June. During this three-day event, participants engaged in discussions on various topics, including animal handling and manipulation, trailer safety and incident management, barn fire response, and how to deal with down or trapped animals. They also participated in hands-on training in simulated exercises covering typical emergency incidents.

Only a quarter of those participating had ever had training in handling large animals during emergencies before this program, but nearly half of them had been involved in an incident with one – mostly animals trapped in fences or holes, or in relation to a trailer accident on the road. During this training, participants learned most about using not only specialized large animal rescue gear, but also about how to use equipment that comes on most fire trucks in a large animal rescue. They also learned how to handle animals, including where to stand and how to manipulate the limbs safely, which increased their comfort level in being around and dealing with large animals. Indeed, nearly three-quarters of the participants became more comfortable handling and being around horses as a result of this training, which may facilitate a faster, more successful rescue in the future. Comments included, “Tomas and Rebecca [instructors] are awesome! They are down-to-earth and approach situations practically and realistically!” and “Great class! I learned more at this training than I have in 12 years of being an animal control officer!”

Since 2009, nearly 500 participants have been involved in 9 sessions of this training. These events have been supported by such groups at the Virginia Horse Industry Board and the Virginia Horse Council, as well as local and state businesses with an interest in the horse industry. Visit www.tlaer.org for more information on this training, or contact Dr. Shea Porr at cporr@vt.edu or your local extension office
for information on programs in your area.