Dr. Christine Smith, past president of Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA), introduced the subject of large animal rescue training in Australia at the 5th International Large Animal Emergency Rescue Conference by providing a short history of her own experiences and how she gained her experience “through fearlessness and stupidity” and novel strategies.
Her “Eureka!” moment was when she realized that “better outcomes for people and animals result from emergency services coordination and the veterinary community.”
Since then she has been promoting the effort to educate veterinarians and emergency responders together. Some of the challenges include a difference in terminology used by veterinarians and emergency responders. A good example, she said, was the use of words like anesthesia, tranquilization, sedation, and immobilization. Do you want the animal relaxed, aware, and able to stand, or do you want it on the ground and unconscious? Many emergency responders use the word "sedated" but might actually mean something different.
Working out these difficulties to allow for successful rescues requires training and practice, and there's no shortage of training opportunities. I've offered. Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue training in Australia for five years from TLAER.org at the "Awareness" and "Operations" levels. Additionally, MaryAnne Leighton, and the Queensland Horse Council offer the Large Animal Rescue Roadshow, and Dr. Smith and Anthony Hatch (who was educated in the United States and United Kingdom on a Churchill Fellowship in 2010) offer Safety Access Training.
Currently EVA and AVA (the Australian Veterinary Association) are working on an initiative to provide training in the veterinary schools across Australia because the groups realize a lack of large animal rescue concept training has led to many people avoiding rescue operations, or even rescue operation or recovery effort failure. The groups hope to require large animal rescue training for veterinarians in schools and have plans to provide services to veterinary schools on a rotating basis and develop a training program for veterinarians,.
The groups are currently compiling a list of vets who have completed a large animal rescue course that will allow an eventual “Find a Vet” functionality for emergency responders needing assistance on scene. It will also allow veterinarians to discuss their good and bad rescue experiences for support and fresh ideas. Additionally there will be resources such as the hot/warm/cold zone reminders, and an incident scene checklist for veterinarians.
Getting veterinarians and their staff involved in large animal rescue training is obviously important to their training as students and young veterinarians to increase their understanding of their role on scene and proper safety precautions (positioning, PPE (or personal protective equipment) such as helmets, gloves, and reflective gear) when responding to incidents.
We are excited to see the involvement of the veterinary community realizing their importance in large animal rescue--and at a national level in Australia. Eventually, the organizations hope to have a "train the trainer" program available.