There is a need for a teamwork in Large Animal Rescue

Thompson, K., Leighton, M., & Riley, C. (2015). Helping hands, hurting hooves: Towards a multidisciplinary paradigm of large animal rescue. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 30(2), 53.

This paper reviews three case studies of horse rescues and demonstrates that successful large animal rescue missions require cooperation of people from multiple disciplines. The authors also advise that animal safety and human safety during the rescue are closely linked, and that thorough training is required for inspectors, owners, emergency services, animal owners and veterinarians alike.

Large Animal Rescue (LAR) is the rescue of livestock, horses, and ungulate wildlife from a place of danger to a place of safety; quite often following urgent situations such as disasters, emergencies or accidents.  It can be risky work and requires specialised training and teamwork from veterinarians, engineers, fire and rescue service, and animal rescue charities. This paper reviews three cases of successful, and not so successful, rescues. It also shows how the safety risk for both the humans and animals involved can be mutually dependent. 

The first case study documented a horse who remained stuck in mud for six hours because of inexperienced rescuers and poor rescue techniques. This was a significantly longer period than if proper methods had been used. Despite the rescue being deemed “successful” (due to the eventual removal of the animal from a dangerous situation), the horse had to be humanely euthanised as a result of injuries sustained during the ordeal. 

Cooperation and forward planning increases rescue success 

In the second case study, horses stranded on a river island were successfully rescued after careful planning and collaboration between RSPCA inspectors, veterinarians and other rescuers. This rescue was facilitated by the fact that all the persons involved had some prior experience or training in LAR. In case study three, a 32-year-old horse was successfully rescued, and recovered fully, after being stuck in a gully for 6 hours.  The team efficiently used time waiting for the veterinarian to arrive at the scene to assess risks and plan the rescue.

These case studies demonstrate the complexity of LAR. A multiple-disciplinary paradigm similar to a road-crash rescue or house-fire rescue is needed for these difficult operations to be successful. Preparation and pre-situation planning are also important for LAR success; plans should specify what to do in any emergency event, and should include assessment of risks. Cooperation and teamwork are also vital components, as shown in the two cases where the people worked together effectively leading to the rescue and full recovery of the horses. 

World Animal Protection’s view 

As well as working with governments and communities in preparation for disasters, we act fast to ensure animal needs are met when disasters strike. This paper shows the importance of working with local partners to assess what’s needed, and to provide quick, safe and efficient aid in a humane way.