Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool have launched ananimal handling course to help fire fighters work safely in situationsinvolving large animals, such as cows and horses.
Merseyside, North Wales, Manchester, and Shropshire Fire and Rescue services have enrolled on the course, which addressed 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.”
Rob Smith, clinical director of livestock and farms, added: “Trying to move cattle and sheep out of harm’s 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 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 Equine 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, said: “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.”
Emergency Services who wish to take part in the course should contact the School of Veterinary Science, Leahurst, by telephoning 0151 794 6061 or visiting the website.