Do you know what to do when faced with a livestock emergency?

It’s all about making it real and keeping rescue efforts simple, 
American expert says of upcoming Olds workshop

rescuing a horse from an overturned trailer

When a truck carrying livestock flips, or there’s a need to rescue horses or cattle during a flood, most people don’t know what to do.

That’s where Rebecca Gimenez comes in.

Gimenez, who hails from Macon, Georgia, will be teaching a workshop on animal rescue and emergency preparedness in Olds on June 25 and 26. The course is open to producers, veterinarians, and emergency response personnel, including volunteer firefighters.

Rebecca Gimenez
Rebecca Gimenez will be in Olds, Alta., on June 25 and 26 to teach a course on livestock emergency. photo: Supplied

“We want people to know what to do so that when responders show up, they can participate in the effort instead of being marginalized,” she said. “We want to make sure that people are a useful part of a rescue.

“What I usually tell people is that they can urinate or puke later. You have to hold yourself together, and be the owner and be sane.”

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about animal rescue, and many people have gleaned their information from watching television and movies, she said.

Part of being prepared for emergencies is paying attention to the things that are happening around you, said Gimenez. In some cases, people end up having to rescue animals from floods or other natural disasters simply because they aren’t paying attention or thinking ahead about what they need to do to take care of their animals.

“People get a little bit of a harsh perspective from me,” she said. “If you have livestock, you’re responsible for it, ethically, morally, and financially. You’re responsible for sheltering that animal, and having a disaster plan is part of sheltering it. It’s your job to figure out what to do if a wildfire is coming across the Prairies or if there’s a blizzard coming and you don’t have enough feed.”

Thinking about the worst-case scenario forces people to consider all the possibilities and they often make changes to their facilities or the way they do things, she said.

So consider emergency situations and what you might do.

“It is the most common thing in the world for a horse to go over the bar in the horse trailer,” she said. “If you call 911, it will be 15 minutes until they get there. But if you have a reciprocating saw inside your horse trailer on a battery pack, you can solve that problem in 30 seconds. These are the kinds of simple things that people haven’t thought through.”

The guiding principle is to keep animal rescue as simple as possible.

“We are not going to bring in helicopters and lift animals from planes. For the average person, two pieces of 20-metre-long webbing that is about six to 10 centimetres wide, will cut it. With those two pieces of webbing, you can do about 80 per cent of your rescues. You can do a sideways drag or a forward assist. You can do a lot of things with that type of webbing to manipulate the animal out of whatever he is in.”

The workshop in Olds will feature classroom and hands-on components, and will examine both animal behaviour, and “the human factor” — the way humans react in emergency situations. She’ll also tackle what people can do to help co-ordinate emergency rescues, taking into consideration the safety of both animals and humans.

Participants will also learn how to approach a scene as part of a team, and work with firefighters, veterinarians or law enforcement.

“The more people you add to a scene, the more challenging it becomes,” she said. “We give people an idea of how it should run, and how they can plug into what’s called ‘the incident command system.’”

Participants will learn animal-handling skills, flight safety zones and how to rescue animals from water, mud, fire and ice.

For more information or to register, contact Alberta Farm Animal Care at 403-652-5111.

About the author


Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for the Glacier FarmMedia publication, the Alberta Farmer Express, since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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