Emergency Planning – How to Help Your County Develop a Livestock Emergency Plan

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Constitutes a Livestock Emergency?

Recently a cattle trailer overturned with 80 head of livestock on board.  The accident happened at 9 p.m. on a weeknight and resulted in the shutdown of a major road until about 2 a.m.  

Fortunately the county in which this occurred has an emergency management plan.  In addition to utilizing the fire and sheriff department, they called in the Kentucky Large Animal Emergency Response Team (KLAER).  
So, while the police and fire personnel handled the driver, traffic control, and hazardous materials clean up; KLAER assessed, treated, and extricated the animals.   

It sounds like the perfect situation until you (and I know you recognize this by now) realize that you can’t just extricate the cattle on the side of the road and turn them loose.  

As it turns out, the truck had just left a local stockyard and word of the accident was quickly relayed to the cattlemen remaining at the sale.  They arrived with portable corral panels and an army of livestock trailers.  Further disaster and wasted time was avoided by the quick response of these volunteers.

How would your county manage such a situation?  Are livestock considered as part of the emergency response plan for traffic accidents, natural disasters, and other emergencies?  Does your county have a large animal emergency response team?  Does your county maintain a contact list of volunteers in the area with livestock equipment?  And most importantly what can you do to help your county prepare for unfortunate events?

Livestock & County Emergency Response Plans
Every county should have an emergency response plan.  Often those plans address managing mass casualties, disease control and containment, and evacuation procedures.  Many counties have volunteer medical personnel and other professionals who train in advance of such incidents.  Some counties already have livestock management incorporated into their emergency planning.

There are a number of fire departments and other emergency services across the Commonwealth with large animal emergency response training.  These teams are often a network of county employees, volunteers, and veterinarians who meet regularly to train and develop skills using the specialized equipment necessary to safely conduct large animal rescues.  The large animal emergency response teams should (in most cases) be tied into the emergency response plan.

Large animal emergency response teams are not designed to transport animals.  Their purpose is to safely extricate trapped livestock.  Most often in this state, they are found pulling horses or cattle out of ponds, mud, and transport vehicles.  Once the animal is removed from the dangerous situation, their job is done and the owner is responsible for providing for the care of the animals.

So the question remains, who is responsible for securing transport for stock once the animals have been extricated?  This needs to be planned by the county emergency response plan.  If the owner is available and able that is the best option.  However often the owner is involved in the incident and may be impaired in which case the county has to have an alternate plan.  The county should have, in advance, a list of volunteers in the area (and their contact information) who can be contacted at anytime to arrive on scene with a trailer and provide emergency transport.  Ideally the list would have two columns: one listing those with traditional horse trailers and the other listing those with stock trailers.  In most situations a stock trailer is preferable for such transport.

The county also needs to have emergency contact information for people with portable corral panels.  Some of the extension offices and often the local Cattlemen’s Association have portable corral panels.   

Having a contingency plan for emergency animal placement/holding is also highly recommended.  Fair grounds and stock yards can often be employed as a short term holding facility.  Again, those facilities are only valuable if the right contacts can be reached when needed.

Remember, accidents happen all the time.  So having cell phone numbers and contact information for round the clock contact is a must!  If the county extension office has portable corral panels, but the office is only open weekdays 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.; emergency personnel must have an alternate means of contact.

So How Can You Help?
* Touch base with your county and ask about an emergency response plan for large animal incidents.
* Ask if you can be part of a task force to develop a plan, if one doesn’t already exist.
* Volunteer your services as an animal handler and/or hauler.
* Volunteer with your area large animal emergency response team.
* Attend trainings on large animal emergency response.
* Talk to your county agriculture extension agent and ask about:
   Emergency response plans
   Accessibility of livestock handling equipment
   Other resources.

Remember – if you happen upon such a scene or if you are engaged as a volunteer, you should only perform those tasks for which you have been trained.  Just like people, animals that are in shock respond to stimulus differently than expected.  

Be part of the solution by being proactive to help your county plan in advance of a livestock disaster.

Article reprinted with permission from the Kentucky Horse Council, www.kentuckyhorse.org.