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County animal rescue team gets official training to be ready for next disaster
by Jill Lufrano
May 02, 2012 | 2101 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Trainer Jim Biller of Code 3 Associates, a large-animal trainer associated with Colorado State University, instructs Washoe County Animal Services staff and other volunteers Wednesday to help them be prepared to evacuate animals during disasters such as the Caughlin and Washoe Drive fires.
Tribune/John Byrne - Trainer Jim Biller of Code 3 Associates, a large-animal trainer associated with Colorado State University, instructs Washoe County Animal Services staff and other volunteers Wednesday to help them be prepared to evacuate animals during disasters such as the Caughlin and Washoe Drive fires.
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RENO — Sgt. Jesse Horton used a stethoscope to listen carefully to the large brown horse that stood patiently beside him. Wearing the Washoe County Animal Services uniform, Horton applied what he just had learned.

“Listen to the heart. It may drop a beat if it is in a depleted physical condition,” said trainer Jim Biller of Code 3 Associates, a national large animal trainer associated with the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Horton, who found himself in the midst of the recent Caughlin and Washoe Drive fires, said he wished he had known the information he was learning this week during the recent disasters.

“I’m picking up a lot of large animal stuff,” Horton said. “This is really an education. I’m comfortable around them now. I wouldn’t have known where to stand before.”

Before, the livestock in the fires were rounded up and taken to the Reno Livestock Events Center, but the volunteers had no formal training. Now, with recent training and, after this week, with formal certification, the first responders will have professional knowledge of how to evacuate large animals from disaster situations.

“It’s Nevada,” Horton said. “We’ve got livestock everywhere.”

Lt. Robert Smith, field supervisor with Washoe County Animal Services, coordinated this week’s training, at which a dozen volunteers will eventually be certified through the national program in handling large animals during crises.

Emergency responders from Washoe County Regional Animal Services are receiving a high-intensity education in emergency animal rescue this week as Washoe County and other area animal service agencies participate in Code 3 Associates Animal Disaster Response Academy.

The two-day training began Wednesday afternoon at the University of Nevada, Reno, farms, located off East McCarran Boulevard. Volunteers worked first with young cattle then with horses and planned to work with sheep on the first day.

Today, during a hands-on demonstration, participants are expected to learn how to safely manage large animals and livestock in an emergency. Training is to include how differently the animals are best approached, harnessed and handled during an emergency when seconds count.

Trainers will use a “dummy” horse to practice technical rescue skills, such as how to rescue animals that have fallen from a cliff, said Lt. Bobby Smith, field supervisor for Washoe County Regional Animal Services.

The recent Caughlin and Washoe fires illustrated the importance of a highly qualified team of animal rescue personnel in the region. Washoe County Regional Animal services staff, and volunteers from the Animal Rescue Team, are participating in this week’s academy, Smith said.

Code 3 Associates Animal Disaster Responder Academy provides classroom instruction and practical scenarios on working with companion animals, livestock and exotic animals in a safe manner during manmade and natural disasters.

“The training deals with cattle behavior and how to handle it with more safely for the cattle and also for the officer,” Boller said.

The training teaches volunteers how to evaluate the situations, understand the animals and get them separated from unsafe situations. It also shows them how to safely approach cattle by teaching them about cattle behavior, cattle body language and movements, he said.

Boller led the class through a thorough medical examination of a live horse, explaining to them what signs to look for if a horse is in distress.

“I teach them what the body language is in every situation,” he said. “We try to teach normal. Abnormal is easy to detect.”
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