Teaching first responders skills needed during crashes involving livestock

Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 5:01 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Millions of animals are transported across the U.S. each year and experts say if those large trucks get in an accident, it can quickly turn chaotic for first responders.

According to NDSU Extension, several hundred thousand head of cattle are on U.S. roadways every day, and given the volume of cattle being transported, the likelihood of a truck being involved in an accident is high.

When an animal encounters traffic, their chance of making it out alive is usually pretty low, according to Animal Control Officer Melissa FitzGerald. That’s why she is learning emergency response skills needed for accidents involving livestock.

“You put them together and this way you can keep the animals from running loose,” FitzGerald explains.

She works for animal control in Otsego, Michigan, where they have a trailer that helps her team quickly respond to animal accidents.

Michigan State hosts emergency response training for accidents involving livestock, where FitzGerald is learning new skills that could save an animal’s life.

“It took four to five hours before we could even start to unload and see what we had inside as far as animals that were either injured or deceased because we didn’t have the proper equipment,” FitzGerald recalls.

These type of situations don’t happen every day but when they do, they pose a great risk to those involved – like the first responders, the public, and, of course, the animal.”

Firefighter Dana Hengesbach has responded to crashes involving animals.

“It’s different from working with individual animals versus when you’re working with larger, frightened animals that are in accidents,” Hengesbach says.

“Our first responders are great at accident recovery, accident management, responding to a scene. But most of them don’t know a lot about large animals,” said Beth Ferry, who is an MSU Extension Educator.

NDSU Extension has a Bovine Emergency Response Plan to help prepare first responders. The program is also used to educate farmers, ranchers, tow truck drivers, firefighters, or anyone interested in learning about first response to a crash involving livestock.