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The Storybook of Large Animal Rescue

This page will hold stories and pictures that are relevant to Large Animal Rescue.


The story of Mouse, the injured horse, by Karen Gardner at The Frederick News-Post. January 21, 2009.

Tuesday's Inaugural Parade was delayed for nearly an hour because of an accident involving a horse.

Brooke Vrany, director of programs and emergency services for Days End Farm Horse Rescue near Mount Airy, was on duty Tuesday in Washington with the organization's horse ambulance, ready to handle any emergencies that might befall the 217 horses participating in the parade.

Vrany got a call about 2:30 p.m. that a horse spooked and entangled his back legs in the grill of a truck. She was on the scene in less than five minutes.

"I was parked at E and Ninth streets," she said. "I had to come down the parade route and the whole parade had to move out of the way to get the ambulance to the horse."

Secret Service agents and police had been alerted she was coming and they waved her through.

Mouse, a 10-year-old appaloosa gelding, is fine. He is home in his barn on the Eastern Shore. But his parade souvenir is stitches and a bandaged rear leg.

Mouse was supposed to be part of the South Ohio Ladies Aside, a women's sidesaddle riding club chosen to participate in the parade. One of the members is friends with Mouse's owner, who brought the horse to Washington as her parade mount.

Mouse, saddled up and ready to go, spooked when he heard a car door slam and backed into the stationary truck. He kicked back and tangled both legs in the grill, one badly. He fell sideways, legs still caught.

"Things were looking dire for Mouse. I did not think he would survive," said Scotlund Haisley, senior director of emergency services for the Humane Society of the United States, in a press release.

"He saved himself,"Vrany said. "He didn't struggle. He knew he was caught."

When Vrany arrived on the scene, she worked with Humane Society volunteers, Haisley and Lt. Col. John Scott of the U.S. Army Veterinary Services. Scott was the veterinarian on call. The group untangled the horse's legs, and Scott anesthetized the leg and applied stitches. Then came the task of getting the horse to stand.

Vrany used thoracic rope strap to wrap around Mouse. "It allows us to maneuver his body without yanking on his legs and head and tail," she said. "It takes the pressure off the horse and utilizes the strength of the horse. When he recovered, his leg was wrapped, and he basically jumped up."

Mouse was led into the horse ambulance with Vrany at the wheel, and Washington mounted police units escorted the ambulance out of the city to the Prince George's County Equestrian Center.

"They knew the way; I just followed," she said.

Vrany praised the cooperation of all the services involved.

"It's so cool that we can respond to an animal emergency with the same efficiency we can respond to a human emergency," Vrany said. "Everything went according to textbook. That's what makes a rescue so successful, is you have the right experience."

Vrany, who is certified in large animal rescue, also took part in the 2005 Inaugural Parade. Vrany has seven years of experience in the emergency rescue of large animals, and in working with sick, injured and downed horses. In a typical year, she is involved in 12 to 15 large animal rescues.



This story comes from Cindy Greenia-Cross of the Vt. Horse Council:

This past Wednesday I received a call from a concerned citizen to tell me that there was a moose trapped in a gorge here in Underhill. She had contacted me because she knew I had assisted with a horse rescue in the area a few weeks before and was hoping I could orchestrate the rescue. I explained that I would have to contact the game wardens as they have control over wildlife but I would offer assistance and see if they could use our Large Animal Technical Rescue equipment.

The fish and game wardens agreed that they needed our equipment and my assistance as Colchester Tech was short on manpower but they had called in help from the national guard mountain division. We agreed to meet at the gorge at 12:00pm and begin rescue operations.

The bull moose who was estimated to be between two and three years old and 800 pounds was trapped within a series of rock cliffs about 25 feet down. The mountaineers from the national guard rigged a system of ropes to the fish and game truck equipped with a winch and the plan was to use the rescue glide to bring the moose up over the cliff while using planks to make the incline less steep.

The moose was darted and tranquilized and then strapped to the lift which was then manually guided onto the planks. All was going well until the winch burned out and he had to be manually pulled over the cliff with only seven people to do so (one of those people was me##41;.

The moose was then pulled up the trail on the glide until we reached a flat point in which to remove the glide and reverse the tranquilizer. Unfortunately the reversal drug did not work and at 3:30pm the fish and game wardens left the very sleepy moose in the custody of myself and Jennifer Silpe, our town constable. Jennifer and I took turns watching the moose and trying to wake him up (all the time remembering that he was a dangerous wild animal) I finally left at 8:00pm as it had been a very long day and Jennifer called me at 9:45pm to say that our moose who was affectionately named Stubby had woken up and walked away unscathed but a little dopey.

It was very exciting to be involved in this rescue and see all our efforts in purchasing this equipment come to use and evolve into a happy ending. When I originally started this project it was with the intention of rescuing domestic animals but it just goes to show we will truly be helping a variety of LARGE animals no matter what the species.



An unsuccessful rescue attempt in the Southern US, as told by one of the responders.

On Monday, November 12, 2007, my crew went to stand by with the local fire department as they attempted to rescue a horse that was pulled into a large sink hole as it followed its owner through a field the previous afternoon. There was about a 12 foot drop to the bottom, and then the hole went back into a small cave formed by huge rock.

When we arrived on scene the horse had been in the hole twenty-five (25) hours.

I went down in the hole with another rescuer to get a better look at the situation and found the horse laying on it's side. The horse seemed to have given up.

Rescuers had attached a large strap around the horses mid section and, using a winch, attempted to pull the horse up and through the hole. Attempts were made to reposition the horse, but the lack of room in the hole and the fact that the horse had given up made it impossible.

After the horse had been in the hole approximately 31 hours the decision was made by the owners to put the horse down. A state Wildlife Officer did this.

I don't know if this horse could have been saved. But I DO know that the owner's fear of the expense of contacting a vet and the failure to call for help sooner lessened the horse's chance for survival. The fact that there was not a crew trained and equipped in large animal rescue nearby also contributed to the horse's death.

Like the rest of the country, when you dial 911 with an emergency, the fire department is usually dispatched to the scene. Horse owners need to make sure that the 911 Dispatch centers in their communities are aware of veterinarians who are available for emergencies as well as rescue crews that are trained in large animal rescue.


September 28, 2007 from Hampshire Fire and Rescue, UK

Hampshire firefighters responded to an unusual animal rescue on Tuesday, 25 September, which involved a Suffolk Punch, a very rare breed of horse, that had fallen into a small stream. At 19:49 Fire Control mobilised crews from Botley and Eastleigh, along with a Multi Role Vehicle and Hampshire Fire and Rescue's specialist Animal Rescue Team, to the incident on a farm in Curdridge.

It is no simple matter trying to rescue a horse from a muddy ditch, without injuring the rescuers or the horse. Once firefighters had made the scene safe, the trained Animal Rescue Team applied strops around the horse using the cold water flowing through the ditch to enable access underneath the horse's body. Specialist lifting techniques were employed to bring the horse onto the bank and away from the ditch, using the farmer's tractor with a fore-end loader.

The Animal Rescue Team worked closely with Animed Veterinary Group to assist the horse into the upright position, before he was stabilised by bales of hay, and thoroughly warmed up after his experience. Animed's on call equine vet administered painkillers due to the length of time that the horse, Senator, was laid on his side in the cold water.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's Rural Safety Officer Anton Phillips, who supervised the rescue, stressed that the swift and expert recovery of the horse from the stream had prevented very serious consequences, which may have resulted in limb and muscle damage, as well as the failure of the horse's internal organs due to the sheer weight that was bearing down upon them whilst he was trapped in the ditch.

Phillips visits farms and equine establishments to offer free advice and guidance. He explained: "By visiting farms personally, I'm able to help owners be better prepared for any emergency that may occur. It also gives me the opportunity to equip firefighters with essential information about a farm before they arrive in order to tackle incidents more effectively."


From Alison Glass, Anderson SC Independent Mail, April 18th, 2007

An apparently blind and disoriented Shetland pony was stranded on an island Wednesday in the Saluda River before Anderson County officials rescued him. The swift water rescue of the pony, an effort that involved the exhausted animal being led across the river with a harness over its head, took about an hour, said Capt. Keith Bowman of the Anderson County Emergency Services department. Officials are not certain how long the pony, described as fully grown but weak, was on the island or how it got there, Capt. Bowman said. The animal at one point became stuck in mud in the river while crossing and rigging was used to assist with the rescue, the captain said. The effort involved people certified in swift water rescue, he said.

The water around the island was about 5 feet deep, said Ike Brissey, emergency services deputy director. The animal has received medical attention and did not suffer any major injuries, authorities said.

The Anderson Fire Department Technical Rescue Team and the emergency services officials worked together on the rescue.

"I base the success (of the effort Wednesday) on the way we trained," Capt. Bowman said.

Emergency services and Technical Rescue Team workers have trained together in the past on large animal rescues. But the effort Wednesday was the first actual rescue of its type involving a large animal that those teams have experienced, Capt. Bowman said. "You train as though it was the real event," he said. "It just proves that training is key."



From a story written by Jeff D'Alessio of The News Enterprise in KY, a two year old Belgian mare named Ruby fell into a 28 ft. deep cave. With the help of a crane from Wise Contracting and a tow truck from Gold City Towing, Radcliff FD, Central Hardin FD, Hardin County EMS and Technical Rope and Cave Emergency Rescue (TRACER) pulled Ruby to safety. It appears that Ruby had been grazing around the cave entrance, lost her balance and tumbled backward into the hole.


Holland Horses
The whole world has heard about the horses who were trapped for 3 days on a tiny piece of land in wind and rain in the Netherlands. Apparently it had everyone mesmerized, watching about 100 horses huddle against the wind and having to watch 18 of them die. First firemen, then the Dutch army, tried to rescue them - both unsuccessfully. So 4 women on horseback rode out to the rescue.

The owner has been taken to court for allowing this to happen, because there had been a storm warning on the previous evening and he would have had time to get his horses in. The rescue was broadcast live.


From the Amity Observer, in Connecticut, and written by Terri Miles, Feb. 21, 2007.


Susan Frechette of Racebrook Road fed her [elderly]horses Slick and Ozzie at their normal evening snack time and then left for about an hour. When she returned home, she knew something was wrong. Ozzie was "screaming" from the fenced-in meadow and Slick was nowhere to be found. She called the Woodbridge Police Department from her cell phone as she searched for the horse. Officers Michael Blume, Joseph Kubik and Vincent Lynch were dispatched to the scene. The officers saw the horse struggling in the water and immediately called for additional help.

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From Corte Madera, CA Fire Dept.

This incident happened in June 2005. The Corte Madera Fire Department responded to assist with a horse in a residential swimming pool. Upon arrival, they found the horse with his head and neck out of the water, and the owner was comforting the horse. The horse apparently escaped from the pasture and it was attempting to walk across the pool on the pool cover. The cover tore, which caused the horse to fall into the pool. The torn pool cover partially wrapped around the horse's rear legs.

The Marin County Humane Society, the Marin volunteer large animal rescue group, and the owner's veterinarian were notified. Twin Cities Police Department also responded to assist.

After everyone was on scene, they decided to use a rope hauling system to assist the horse when he was led out of the pool. The veterinarian conducted a preliminary assessment, and he determined that the horse could move under its own power. A makeshift harness was placed on the horse, and he was led out of the pool, assisted by the attached ropes.


The most heartrending story to come out of the research for the book, Save Your Horse! A Horse Owner's Guide to Large Animal Rescue, was about the mare in this picture. She was involved in a trailer rollover. Since no one on-scene knew about LAR, a chain was wrapped around her tailbone and attached to a tractor. As she was pulled out of the wreck her tail was ripped from her body. The result is pictured here. To compound matters, she was pregnant. She was kept alive until her baby was born, then euthanized.


Thoughts on LAR training
from Tino Medina, Supervisor, Animal Control, Harnett County, North Carolina

First off let me say, any additional training is always good. I was in the army before I worked here and always "being prepared" was drilled into our minds. So any additional training is beneficial.

When I first came to work in Animal Control, we were "dog catchers", now we are Animal Control and I believe the public realizes this. We handle livestock, wildlife, exotics and family pets in our every day business. We have come to realize as a nation, someone will have to handle these animals in disasters regardless if the disaster is natural or man made.

When I entered Animal Control, I never imagined needing to have Haz-Mat training to pick up animals but when livestock trucks turnover, did you ever consider the chemicals that can spill? We all know there are train tracks going past farms and some neighborhoods full of animals. Well, have you ever considered the chemicals being transported on the trains? The dog breeder who may have 40 animals on his property but also has a meth lab in the shed. These are all scary scenarios, but each one has been proven true in recent years. The only way to cope with the stress of handling these situations is training and readiness.

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From the FARMERS GUARDIANarticle May 30, 2007 by Angela Calvert. The Farmers Guardian is the UK's biggest selling agricultural newspaper.

The equestrian industry has come together, headed by the British Horse Society (BHS), to launch the Emergency Services Protocol and Fund. This initiative is designed to ensure that equine emergency rescue cases are carried out within strict guidelines, by trained experts and under correct veterinary supervision to ensure that all victims have the greatest chance of survival. This national standard provides nationwide training for emergency services officers. The intention is to minimise the delays in injured animals receiving veterinary care, maximise the chances of a positive outcome for the animal and to ensure the safety of all those involved. The need for such a protocol became apparent from several widely reported incidents of horses dying slow, painful deaths, which could possibly have been avoided if different procedures had been carried out.

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For more information, contact: BEVA, Mulberry House, 31 Market St., Fordham, Ely CB7 5LQ, visit the website, or send an email.