P.E.I. fire crews learning how to rescue large animals

First responders on P.E.I. are learning how to save more than just people in an emergency situation.

Course offered at Atlantic Vet College first of its kind in Canada

The course will teach responders how to safely remove large animals from burning buildings. (CBC)

First responders on P.E.I. are learning how to save more than just people in an emergency situation. For the first time, the Atlantic Vet College is training emergency workers and farmers how to save animals during a crisis.

"This is a great opportunity for firefighters to get their fingers and hands dirty," said Dean Martin, coordinator of the North River Fire Department. Martin said this specialized training fills a void for Island firefighters.

"I think it's quite relevant. We do live in a rural area. Tens of thousands of cows, thousands of horses - it's inevitable something will happen at some point in time."

Dr. Erica Koch once saved a horse that fell into a well. (CBC)

The course is being taught by Dr. Erica Koch, who once had to rescue a horse that fell in a well. She said in an emergency, large animals can be frantic and unpredictable.

She said participants will focus on learning about horses and cattle in disaster situations such as barn fires, overturned trailers and flooding.

"They might be able to save an animals life, or they may be able save a person's life by advising them not to do something that's unsafe," she said.

It’s training Frank MacDonald wishes he had three years ago. The farmer was moving some cows when he noticed his barn was on fire.

"It was an inferno in a very short time," he said. MacDonald lost 30 cows and 17 young heifers in the fire.

"To say it was an emotional day would be a mild understatement."

MacDonald wonders if this type of training could have helped save more animals.

"I would think it would be a help to any livestock handler to know how to better handle an emergency situation, remove animals at a time of something like, that."

Koch said people from across Canada and the United States have contacted her about the course.  It runs from July 5 to 7.