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Emergency horse whisperers
by Jill Lufrano
Feb 21, 2012 | 1321 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - With help from Sgt. Cindy Doak (right), a Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Community Emergency Response Team member leads a horse around the barn at the Washoe County Animal Services complex in Reno on Saturday.
Tribune/John Byrne - With help from Sgt. Cindy Doak (right), a Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Community Emergency Response Team member leads a horse around the barn at the Washoe County Animal Services complex in Reno on Saturday.
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RENO — The scenario appeared simple: Take the lead and walk the 1,100-pound horse around in a circle slowly, Sgt. Cindy Doak demonstrated Saturday.

But this was just practice for emergency responders who would have to repeat the task in the face of a raging wildfire or looming flood.

“Federal and state laws require that animals are assisted in a disaster,” said Field Supervisor Bobby Smith with Washoe County Regional Animal Services. “When that happens, people don’t want to leave unless we get their pets out.”

This means pets big and small alike. During the recent Washoe Drive Fire that burned 3,177 acres, emergency crews sheltered up to 60 smaller pets at Damonte High School and some 60 large animals at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.

The fire “put their training to the test,” Smith said.

Saturday’s exercise inside a barn at the Washoe County Animal Services complex on Longley Lane in Reno helped a group of 17 all-volunteer Community Emergency Response Team and Animal Response Team members practice how to remain calm during a disaster while efficiently removing large animals from a property, or handling them in a shelter.

Trainers assisted CERT members with their handling skills and the volunteers took a refresher course on dogs, cats, rattlesnakes and equipment, and then received training on how to handle the two horses and one llama available.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office announced last week its new role as manager of animal services. This new partnership will allow more training opportunities such as Saturday’s, according to sheriff’s office administration.

CERT trains in several areas of emergency response. The team is made up of citizens who who prepare for rescue, medical, fire safety and many other aspects of disaster readiness.

Debbie Scafire, leader of the Animal Rescue Team, said the group has stepped up its training schedule in the past few months following the Caughlin and Washoe Drive fires. The teams have decided to begin training and recruiting more members after realizing the need for animal rescue in the region.

The effort will help the sheriff’s office meet federal requirements to provide animal evacuations in emergencies. If residents know their animals can be taken out of harm’s way and provided shelter, they will be more likely to evacuate themselves in a disaster, Scafire said.

Each volunteer is required to work eight hours a month, teamed with a uniformed officer, Scafire said. Some work as much as 60 hours.

“We do it because we like it,” Scafire said. “These guys are some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life.”

A 17-year volunteer veteran, Scafire said she once assisted in rescuing a calf that had fallen into a ditch and hurt its leg. A team of rescuers were able to climb down a hill, over a fence and stretcher the calf back up in order to get it to a veterinary hospital.

“That’s the kind of thing we do,” she said. “That’s just really rewarding.”

To find out more about the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office volunteer programs, visit ww.wcsovolunteer.org. For questions about the Animal Rescue Team, write to Debbie Scafire at dscafire@washoecounty.us.
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