Cabela's hosts ASPCA La. State animal rescue training

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
ASPCA Senior Director Dick Green, Ed.D. with Disaster Response.

The Cabela's lake was utilized by a Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) last week to provide lifesaving training for animals in case of slack water flooding.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) partnered with the volunteers to simulate a disaster scenario. The ASPCA was in Gonzales in 2016 to assist with the animal shelter.

Volunteers from St. Charles, St. Landry, East Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa, Tangipahoa Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, USAR TaskForce 2, Jefferson, Orleans, Acadia, and LSART VMRC participated.

Slack water is what still water is referred to in a flood. The other type is called swift water, which is not seen as often in Louisiana. The group did not use real animals for the training. It's safer. Rather they used stuffed animals to learn how to get them into carriers and on boats.

They all practiced grouping of small boats, teamwork, and trust. They used 10 different types of boats for getting used to different types of configurations.

"Most of our animal control agencies don't have boats, so they'll be using somebody else's boat," Director of LSART Renée Poirrier said.

The training was led by Dr. Dick Green, senior director of ASPCA Disaster Response. Dr. Green has managed animal rescue and relief efforts following dozens of hurricanes including Katrina, Sandy and Harvey, and more than 125 other disasters throughout the world.

Dr. Green, who is based in Seattle, said they started this partnership training in 2007. It is typically an annual training, but some years they may do it twice.

"We're probably close to 10 of them now," Green said.

"We have several animal control agencies, but we also have some human agencies here that do human search and rescue, as well as our veterinary medical reserve core," Poirrier said. "All of these responders will respond during disasters, and they're here to get trained on how to do this safer."

The boats began to gather together in the middle of the lake. "What they're doing is just the skill of being able to bring each other together for boats for handling, in case they have to transport people," Bruce Earnest, ASPCA Responder Safety Manager for the Field Investigations and Response Team said.

Earnest is from Iowa. He explained that his group deals with all aspects of animal cruelty, such as dog and cockfights but disaster response, as well. He was here for the flood in 2016.

"I was down here for Katrina--Harvey, Irma, Maria last year--doing water rescue," Earnest said. "Texas, Florida. Dick went to all three, then he went to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands as well."

BM2 Timothy Cato with the U.S. Coast Guard, stationed in New Orleans, was also on hand learning about animal rescue. He said the Coast Guard works with the LASPCA, fostering animals at the station. He explained that the benefits of the exercise for him are two-fold.

"We kind of learn the animal side, animal handling and everything, and pass on some of our knowledge to others to learn both ways," Cato said. "It's good for community relations and partnerships."

Click here to see the full gallery of the training event.