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To The Rescue!


The American Humane Association Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ held a Basic Animal Emergency Services two-day training session December 8-9, 2012 at The Agricenter’s Edward Jones Ampitheater. The goal of the session was to help emergency personnel gain the skills to respond to emergencies and care for animals in the aftermath of disasters. This training is important because amid the chaos of a disaster, like flooding, storms, fires, etc., companion animals can be overlooked, left behind, and cannot always save themselves from perilous situations. The American Humane Association is a national leader in disaster response and animal rescue.

The course was primarily for professionals trained in disaster response, emergency medical services personnel, firefighters, animal shelter staff, animal control officers, veterinarians and veterinary technicians, and animal handlers/trainers. Day one was primarily lecture and presentation of the basic knowledge and materials and day two included hands-on practice with live animals. Information included an introduction to national disaster response, featuring the human-animal bond, Federal mandate, and activation process. Components of disaster response such as safety, the incident command system, communication, and managing volunteers. Small animal behavior and handling as it relates to capture and sheltering in a disaster, particularly dogs and cats. Large animal behavior as it relates to capture and sheltering in a disaster, focusing on horses.

The basic training course includes:

·  Role and responsibilities in animal rescue
·  Activating a disaster response team
·  Safety factors and concerns in the field and shelter
·  Incident command system in animal operations
·  Small and large animal behavior and handling

Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Dunlap was on hand to provide detailed information about how horse owners should prepare for emergency situations. Dr. Dunlap advised being prepared for general types of equine emergencies. First, the human must be properly equipped. “You must be properly clothed, shod and hydrated. You can't help your horse if you are cold and hypothermic. Don't be afraid to ask for help if the situation is beyond your capabilities.”

Second, keep your barn clean and free of debris for easy evacuation. Have appropriate halters and lead ropes by each stall. Dr. Dunlap does not consider a nylon halter and lead rope appropriate because, “It can melt as you evacuate in a fire. You want a nice cotton lead rope with a brass clasp.” A leather halter is preferred.

Horse owners have the task of stockpiling two weeks of food and water for yourself and your horses.  The stored water  should be rotated every two weeks to keep it fresh.

If you have to leave your horse in a disaster, you should leave the horse’s information, but not the original Coggins test, on the cheekpiece of the horse’s leatherhalter in a luggage tag. She warned that attaching the Coggins papers to the horse is a transportation ticket for a horse thief.  She also suggested braiding a luggage tag containing this information into his tail. If you have properly prepared, you will also have the horse microchipped and a photo of your horse taken with your family members. This photo will help prove ownership when you try to get your horse back later.
If you have to leave them behind, have a large sign by your driveway stating the number and particulars of the animals which are left. Another sign large enough to be read from a search airplane  should say, “Have animals, need help” or “Have animals, OK for now.”

Your disaster plan should include a network of people to call on, starting with your immediate neighbors.  Get to know other people who have trucks and trailers, even if you own these things yourselves. Your network also should include government services, which can be accessed through a call to your local police.

Dr. Dunlap has prepared a 12-page guide for disaster preparedness, available on her website: She will be hosting a more in depth AHA Red Star Disaster Sheltering training in February. Contact her at Dunlap Equine Services for more information and to let her know you are interested in attending: (901) 463-0937or e-mail:

The American Humane Association began doing animal relief in August, 1916, by accepting an invitation of the War Department to help animals used by the U.S. Army during WWI. The invitation resulted in the development of the American Red Star Animal Relief Program known today as Animal Emergency Services. For more information, visit: For information about the Animal Emergency Services Training, call 202-677-4216 or e-mail:

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