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Large Animal Rescue Paper

Large animals can have a value to their owners as an investment, income, or sentimental value. Thus, an owner may put themselves at risk trying to rescue their animal, and it is because of this that specialized methods, equipment, and training has been developed to protect both the owner and animal. Large animal rescue is nothing new, today however, techniques and equipment have evolved to make rescuing large animals safer not only for the animal, but for the responders as well. This paper discusses the importance for large animal rescue, and reviews some techniques that are used in different scenarios. The future of large animal rescue and the current programs in Louisiana are reviewed as well.

Rescuers help a friend in need...


Many people own large animals such as horses and cattle, which are valuable as an investment, income, or have sentimental value. It is because of these reasons that owners will put themselves in danger to rescue one of their large animals in need. To protect these owners and the animals they wish to rescue, special trainings have been developed with methods and equipment to assist in these particularly challenging rescues. Large animal rescue is nothing new. Before the invention of the combustion engine, horses, oxen and other beast of burden were one man’s main mode of transportation and work. Because of this, these animals were very valuable for livelihood and were taken care of. An example of this is that back in 1867, Massachusetts had the first equine ambulance equipped with a crude sling for patients.

Today the role of these large animals, especially horses, has moved from that of which it used to be. Cattle still play the same role as a food source as they once did, but the role of horses has been replaced by motorized vehicles and American culture now puts the horse into a more companion animal role. Because of this, developments in large animals rescue and techniques slowed. An example of this would be the closing of Harvard University’s veterinary hospital. Horses made up the majority of its patients, but “with the assumption that horses would no longer be necessary as cars became more available and affordable, the hospital closed in 1904” (Gimenez 4). Just like before though, these animals can find themselves in incidents which require human assistance for rescue. However, today better methods have been developed to free these animals from predicaments by assisting, shifting or lifting the animal without causing further harm to the victim, and with less risk to rescue personnel (although all rescues are dangerous).

In past years, if an owner found their horse in need of rescue, such as being stuck in the mud, they would call friends and neighbors for assistance to free the animal, as is sometimes the case today. Tractors, winches, and ropes were often the equipment of choice for this rescue, but without proper training, the horse and sometimes rescuers, were injured and even killed as a result of the rescue. Today many owners call 911 and expect their tax paid and volunteer first responders to be able to rescue the animal safely. Unfortunately in an informal survey of law and fire service personnel by the authors of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, it was discovered that only about 5% of first responders knew something about handling large animals and even fewer than that felt comfortable about handling a large animal (Gimenez XI). This shows a need in more training to safely rescue large animals. Today, there are several organizations and schools that offer this specialized training.

All photos courtesy of Dr Rebecca Gimenez and Sara Deen, TLAER.org

Click here to download the rest of Sara Deen’s Large Animal Rescue paper:  LARGE ANIMAL RESCUE