A long way from just horsing around
The Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) new horseback emergency response team held its first-ever training session based at Fair Park Thursday through Saturday with the largest exercise on Thursday afternoon.
It’s the brainchild of Dr. Dee Ellis of Rockdale, TAHC executive director and state veterinarian.
“It’s important to address the aspect of animals in emergency management,” Dr. Ellis said. “People will put themselves at risk because of their animals.”
He said launching this group of approximately 20 agency responders will enhance the state’s capability to assist the citizens of Texas with animal issues during disasters.
According to Amanda Bernhard, TAHC Emergency Management Coordinator, “Disasters in the past have revealed the need for responders on horseback to help with livestock handling issues. Public safety as well as animal safety can be compromised when displaced animals are found on public roadways, as occurred during Hurricane Ike in 2008. Experienced riders on horseback will be invaluable in capturing stray livestock, as well as assisting with other ‘search’ or ‘damage assessment’ operations in isolated or affected areas.”
The horse responder team is comprised of TAHC animal health inspectors whose primary role in the aftermath of a disaster will be to assist with locating, rounding up, identifying, and moving livestock. The horse team will also perform any other appropriate duties as requested by local and state responders. In general, the TAHC staff will work to reunite stray livestock with their owners, assist local jurisdictions with shelter activities, support any unmet needs of impacted livestock and poultry producers, as well as assist the local veterinary community that may be affected by a catastrophic event.