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Emergency responders never know what they'll find when they're called into action - a car crash maybe or a house fire. They are trained for those scenarios, but many less prepared to pull cows from a collapsed barn, rescue horses from wild fires or move pigs off the highway after the truck carrying them has flipped over. Josephine Bennett of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports on an effort to train emergency responders to handle large animals.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE)
JOSEPHINE BENNETT, BYLINE: There's nothing quite like seeing a 700-pound horse suspended high above the ground by two slings. But it's not at all unusual here at the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Center in Gray, Georgia.
TOMAS GIMENEZ: Are you ready? Go ahead. Pull slowly.
REBECCA GIMENEZ: A nice smooth haul. That tends to not stimulate the animal.
BENNETT: Tomas and Rebecca Gimenez bark out directions to rescuers as they maneuver the animal out of a ditch. First responders tug on a system of ropes and pulleys as they move the spotted filly to stable ground.
GIMENEZ: Give us some slack.
GIMENEZ: Let it come. Keep coming. Keep coming. Wait a second. Release.
GIMENEZ: Good girl.
BENNETT: The rescue is a success, but it's not real. It's part of three days of training at the Rescue Center. For years, owner Rebecca Gimenez crisscrossed the world training first responders. But then she got the idea to create this unique training center on her farm to work with animals.
GIMENEZ: A live horse gives you the opportunity for the horse to have an opinion and it breathes. People take these evolutions much more seriously, because they see that the animal's breathing, the animal might be excited. The animal reacts.
BENNETT: This $450 class includes veterinarians and firefighters. The students work through simulated rescues like overturned trailers, burning barns and muddy ravines. Instructor Tomas Gimenez is a retired veterinarian and he says one of their animals is particularly well-suited for teaching people how to move animals out of the road.
GIMENEZ: The llama is a very good animal for that because they are not friendly. They don't want to be touched. They are very hard to catch, and they are actually smarter than a horse.
BENNETT: And that's a good thing for a group of firefighters from Milton, Georgia, north of Atlanta. The community is home to dozens of horse farms. Battalion Fire Chief Roth Hutcheson says they formed a large animal rescue team two years ago because of repeated calls.
ROTH HUTCHESON: The floor came out of the trailer, and the horse actually went through it. We had another one where a horse slid down a bank into a creek, got his feet up under some roots. And then a lot of the calls we get are to go into a barn and get a horse up that's actually down against a stall wall and they can't lift it.
BENNETT: Tomas Gimenez says one of the most common scenarios in animal rescue is a horse trailer that tips over.
GIMENEZ: The biggest goal of this training is to show people - emergency responders, horse owners - how to safely help a large animal that is in some kind of predicament without hurting the animal, without killing the animal, and without hurting or killing a human.
BENNETT: The Gimenez's still plan to travel to do the large animal rescue training. But Tomas expects others will now come here to this facility where people and animals do the teaching.
For NPR News, I'm Josephine Bennett in Macon, Georgia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.