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Colo. firefighters train to rescue large animals

By Nick Bonham
The Pueblo Chieftain

PUEBLO, Colo. — About 25 rescuers from throughout the state learned to help large animals hoof it out of tough situations this weekend.

Pueblo Animal Services hosted a two-day workshop about saving large barnyard creatures involved in accidents and dangerous scenarios.

“It’s impressive. It’s very impressive,” said Pueblo West Firefighter Emily Moore, who along with colleague Paul Huffman participated in the workshop.

Julie Justman, a field service manager for PAS, said the workshop was arranged to help emergency responders learn to save animals like they do people, training that is not common.

The timing of the workshop comes after a May 29 incident in Pueblo, where a horse being transported in a trailer kicked and lodged its foot in a wheel well. “It’s a dangerous enough situation to put untrained people in,” Justman said.

The classes were taught by California-based Large Animal Rescue Co., which was established about 12 years ago by John and Debra Fox.

Fox said he and his wife wrote the book on large-animal rescue — training and rescue tactics he said they felt compelled to share after handling numerous large-animal rescues with the volunteer fire department they’re part of near Santa Cruz.

They also developed a Veterinary Medical Association-approved course which was adopted by the state of California.

“We went all over the world and took bits and pieces of (rescue) info and started piecing it together,” said Fox, who is primarily employed as an investigator for the state of California.

The first day of training transpired in the classroom, learning the anatomy of large animals, their skeletal and muscle structures and their respiratory systems. “It’s trying to get into the animal’s brain,” Fox said. “These animals are trapped right now. They’re not reacting as normal. Once you understand how they react, we talk about the type of equipment you can use and where and how to use it.”

Horses were the animal of choice for rescue training Sunday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds, where students herded mannequins with articulated limbs from various situations.

“We’re doing it on horses, but we’ve (rescued) dogs, goats and sheep. Horses are the most common animal (rescued) because of the emotional and monetary value. Cattle is more of a commodity,” Fox said.

Justman said PAS received three grants to fund the workshop. Students had to pay $150 for the two-day event.

Rescue personnel from Douglas and Jefferson counties to Pueblo participated. Justman said the workshop had a capacity of 25 and a dozen more who wanted in were placed on a waiting list.

Justman said she hopes to host another large-animal rescue training session next year.

Copyright 2009 The Pueblo Chieftain