Vets launch animal handling course for fire fighters
Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool have launched
an animal handling course to help fire fighters work safely in situations involving
large animals, such as cows and horses.
Merseyside, North Wales, Manchester, and Shropshire Fire and Rescue services
have enrolled on the course, which addresses the major risks associated with
handling animals, including horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. Fire fighters will
learn about the health and safety aspects of working in a farm environment and
the different approaches needed for handling horses that are loose in a field
or stabled in a yard.
Large animals can become distressed if they sense danger and can inflict serious
injury on fire fighters during rescue operations. Emergency services need staff
with specialist knowledge in animal behaviour and handling in order to work
safely with horses and farm animals.
Dr Caroline Argo, Lecturer in Animal Science and Equine Reproduction, said:
Fire fighters are dealing with emergency situations that involve
large and small animals all the time, but the aim of this course is to ensure
that all rescue workers feel confident and safe working with animals in these
situations. It is also important that all officers are able to predict how
animals will behave in different circumstances and have a good theoretical
and practical knowledge of working with large animals in their environment.
Dr Rob Smith, Clinical Director of Livestock and Farms added:
Trying to move cattle and sheep out of harms way is very
different to moving horses or small animals. Cattle and sheep have very strong
herding instincts and will try and stay together, jumping over fences or running
through lines of people to get back to the herd, if separated.
Horses are more used to human contact and may gain some comfort from
them, but if they are trapped they will often remain relatively calm until
they are almost free, at which point they can bolt and run. In these instances
emergency services need to make sure that before an animal is freed, there
is somewhere safe for it to go and that it can be controlled.
Darren Jones, Operations Development Team Manager for North Wales Fire North
Wales Fire and Rescue Service said:
We first approached the University to develop an animal handling
course based on the recommendation of the British Equine Veterinary Association.
Our Service recognised the potential for providing an animal awareness course
in the North Wales Region. North Wales Fire and Rescue Service worked closely
with the University, to develop this course with the intention of improving
the health safety and welfare of fire fighters at incidents involving large
animals, but at the same time ensuring that animals are dealt with in the
most humane and caring manner.
The course is part of the Animal Rescue Forum, which involves the Fire Service,
RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association (BEVA). It was set up to provide
co-ordinated training programmes in animal rescue for fire fighters, equine
vets and RSPCA members. The training programme is supported by the Animal Rescue
Squad of the Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Bill Evans, Assistant Chief Fire Officer from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service,
We respond to around 50 emergencies a year involving small and
large animals. Whilst our fire fighters are highly trained to deal with these
situations, large animals in particular can be a danger to themselves and
others when they are distressed. The main concern for our fire fighters is
the welfare of the animal involved. This course will further our understanding
of animal behaviour, as well as the health and safety aspects, so that we
can reduce distress and further injury to animals whilst also ensuring safe
systems of work.