First Responders to Receive Livestock Emergency Training

VASARTFirst responders will soon get the chance to learn about handling livestock during natural or man-made disasters.

The Virginia State Animal Response Team is offering two days of training geared toward animal control officers, police and fire professionals, veterinary professionals and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Training will be held June 22 and 23 at the Alphin Stuart Livestock Arena at Virginia Tech. Attendees are eligible for professional continuing education credits. The seminars are co-sponsored by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and Extension.

“These seminars look at the unique needs animal agriculture faces during a disaster or emergency event,” noted Tony Banks, VASART board chairman. “It’s hard to anticipate what livestock’s needs will be under these circumstances, so we need people who are trained to deal with them.”

VASART was formed in the wake of hurricanes Fran and Katrina, when there was a big push for states to protect companion animals during disasters. Banks said over the years VASART has helped create community animal response teams whose members are trained to provide pet sheltering during crisis situations. And they’ve sponsored sessions addressing situations like handling animals stuck in floodwaters, extracting cows stuck in mud or rescuing horses that broke through ice on a pond.

The June security trainings will cover unique issues that should be considered when animals are involved in a natural or man-made emergency such as fires, floods, hurricanes and disease exposure. They will also address agro-terrorism concerns and preparing for unique challenges rural communities face when responding to livestock-related events.

“The training is intended to get local officials and volunteers to plan and prepare how to respond when a disaster happens,” Banks shared. The courses will introduce participants to issues such as safe animal handling, animal evacuation and sheltering.

The June 22 class is “All Hazards Preparedness for Animals in Disasters” and the June 23 session is “All Hazards Planning for Animal, Agricultural and Food Related Disasters.” Classes will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and are currently full. To be placed on a waiting list, please call 804-346-2611 or email

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