If an animal needs to be moved or lifted, the equipment and techniques used by emergency responders should:
- Minimise contact with the animal
- Consider the welfare of the animal
- Avoid injury to the animal
- Avoid unnecessary suffering of the animal
The safe moving or lifting of an animal, especially a large animal, will need to take into account the number of emergency responders who are available and able to move or lift the animal. The activity may require additional resources or the use of specialist equipment.
Refer to National Operational Guidance: Operations, Control measure – Adopt correct manual handling techniques, for further information about manual handling.
Animals may be moved by:
- Leading or herding the animals
- Sliding or manipulating an animal, either manually or with mechanical equipment
- Lifting or carrying an animal, either manually or with mechanical equipment
Moving or lifting animals should use the simplest method deemed appropriate and suitable; this is likely to be the quickest and safest for the animal and the emergency responders.
Animals that need to be lifted may benefit from chemical restraint, due to the physical and mental stimulation of the rescue. Heavy sedation or anaesthesia is the default for large animals that require lifting, therefore a veterinary surgeon should normally attend the incident if this activity needs to take place.
However, any lifting of animals should be subject to a risk assessment. It may be necessary to proceed with the lift before a veterinary surgeon arrives at the scene of the incident; for example, to preserve human life or in situations when human safety or animal viability could be compromised by waiting for veterinary attendance.
Equipment used to move or lift an animal should eliminate any danger of strangulation or injury, and should always allow the quick release of the animal. This equipment, where available and assessed to be appropriate, includes:
- Mechanical devices
- Their use will need to be assessed, based on the suitability of the site, the type of mechanical device, the conditions and the task
- The load will need to be calculated and mechanical advantage used if required, with the correct application of lifting and winching equipment
- HIAB crane, telehandler or equivalent lifting device
- The equipment should be operated by a competent person; their competency for the task should be assessed prior to commencing lifting operations
- Fire and rescue service personnel should operate at an appropriate distance from the equipment
- Lunge lines or general purpose lines can be used to help control the load
- Polyester flat woven duplex slings can be used when extricating large animals, for example from ditches or bogs, using approved techniques
- Suspension harnesses
- Can be used to lift and suspend a bovine or equine, during which time it can receive veterinary treatment and may regain its ability to stand unaided
- A suspension harness can be used in rescue situations if appropriate, especially where a greater degree of support for the animal is required
- Rescue glides
- Can be used to move recumbent animals, especially if skidding techniques cannot be used due to ground conditions or the required distance to travel
- Allow for easier pulling, as the smooth surface of the glides is in contact with the ground and can be interlinked to deal with very large animals
- Have a strapping system to secure the animal onto the glide, to prevent it rolling off or moving, especially over rough terrain or longer distances
- Are used to restrain the limbs of a large animal during a rescue and can be used to lift a large animal by its limbs if necessary
Manual manipulation techniques
The following techniques are usually carried out without mechanical advantage. They are simple to perform and require minimal equipment, however a quick release mechanism should be used. Manual manipulation of large animals may present the safest option for human safety and animal welfare.
The following recognised techniques form part of the training for large animal rescue:
- Forward skid
- Easy to apply to an animal in a restricted space
- Can be used for limited vertical movement
- Avoids traction on the animal’s head or legs, but does apply direct pressure around one area of the torso
- Forward assist
- Similar to the forward skid, and can be used to assist an animal that is ambulatory but unable to negotiate an incline or obstacle
- Allows the animal handler to guide, encourage and assist the animal
- Backward skid
- Avoids using the animal’s legs, tail or head for traction and can be used to manoeuvre animals through narrow gaps
- Applies a lot of pressure around one area of the torso
- Sideways skid
- Avoids the torso rolling (which can result in stimulation of the animal) and provides a lot of manoeuvrability
- Having two points of contact minimises the pressure on the animal’s torso with the effort spread between two lines of emergency responders
- Barrel skid
- Can be used to raise a standing animal where steep sides prevent a sideways skid
- Can be applied from one side of the animal if required
- Rollover or controlled rollover
- Provides an effective method of rolling an animal
- Can be carried out on most sizes of animal with the minimum number of personnel
- Hobbled dorsal rollover
- An option for quickly moving an animal that is lying on its back (dorsally recumbent)
- Use of this technique may be appropriate if the animal is trapping a casualty, or if the animal is in danger
The ground onto which an animal is skidded should be grassed or similar. If skidding an animal onto abrasive ground is unavoidable, hard protection should be positioned between the animal and the abrasive surface.
If not operated correctly or within animal rescue protocols, using mechanical lifting equipment can cause significant injury or harm to emergency responders or the animal. However, with correct tactical planning, it can be the safest and most appropriate rescue method.
Particular care should be taken when working with other agencies who are operating machinery. Safe working systems will need to be selected under the guidance of the animal rescue team leader, veterinary surgeon and incident commander.
The following recognised techniques and equipment form part of the training for large animal rescue:
- Rescue slings set
- A system to strop a large animal for a vertical lift, providing anti-spill straps and quick-release couplings
- Can be used with a mechanical lifting device for a combination lift and skid
- Due to the pressure on the animal’s abdomen, the maximum recommended suspension time is five minutes
- Medical suspension harness
- Can be used for rescues based on the medical or anatomical requirements of the animal
- Can be used post-rescue to help an animal to stand, and can be left in place for up to two hours if required
- Hobbled lift
- Can be used to quickly recover an animal, including equines and bovines, lying on its back (dorsally recumbent)
- Should be carried out under full anaesthesia, unless there is an emergency, such as the animal trapping a casualty