Weakley County D.A.R.T. session held at UTM
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 15:03
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture held the Disaster Animal Response Training session for Weakley County at the UTM Smith Center Thursday, March 21.
The purpose of the training session is to inform the public of how to handle animals in the case of an emergency, whether that be a natural or man-made disaster. The TDA works to inform the public of the proper ways to handle animals including, cats, dogs, horses and cattle.
The event began with two animal control officers from Madison County and the City of Jackson showing people the proper way to catch and handle cats and dogs. The officers explained how the process of catching dogs and showed the tools they use to do so. The most commonly caught dog is either a Pit Bull or Pit mix.
Following their presentation, Dr. Jason Roberts, Associate Professor of Animal Science, gave a brief lecture over the important signs to look for that are exhibited by different animals. Roberts informed the audience that each animal is different and the handler should “read the animal.” He advised the audience to approach individual animals differently. A submissive animal should be approached differently than a dominant one would be.
“If the animal is not aggressive, lower yourself, get down on the animal’s level,” Roberts said.
There are different types of responses animals will give. They will either submit or become aggressive. The handler adds to the demeanor of the animal. If the handler appears aggressive to the animal, the animal will react and may become aggressive as well.
Cats, though small animals, can be very aggressive, when threatened they will bite and claw at the handler. Typically, cats should be handled differently than dogs. Roberts told the audience that using a towel is the best way to try to handle a cat. The general message when handling any animal, especially cats, is to be watchful and careful. Always read the posture of the animal.
When handling either a dog or cat, if the head is down, the animal is trying to portray submission. If the head is up or the animal is staring directly at the handler, use extreme caution, the animal is typically trying to portray dominance. In the case the animal is displaying dominance, it is best to give the animal a minute to calm down and then try to approach again.
When dealing with large livestock, there are different standards of safety, which the handler should maintain. Cattle and horses are much larger and stronger than people. A person simply does not compare to the size of such animals. Even greater precautionary measures should be taken because a handler can be seriously hurt.
“We had a student several years ago that worked on the farm. He was working steers and one charged him. [The student] thought he was macho; he lowered his shoulder and hit the steer. The steer won. We took him to the hospital and he had a bruised lung,” Roberts said.
Caution should always be used when trying to control such large animals. Unlike cats and dogs, when cattle put their heads down, they are not demonstrating submissive behavior they are getting ready to charge. When this happens, Roberts suggests getting out of the way. Especially during a disaster, animals can become easily frightened and in doing so can become even more dangerous.
“It is even more disastrous if [the handler] gets hurt,” Roberts said.
Dealing with a horse is similar to dealing with a cow; the person handling can be kicked, bitten, stepped on or run over. Horses have a fight or flight response and Roberts says that must be taken into consideration.
“If a horse doesn’t want to get on the trailer, you can’t force it on there. You need to allow the animal the chance to calm down,” Roberts said.
With horses, the higher the animal, the more dominance that animal portrays. Roberts warned, when an animal raises its head the handler needs to get out of the way.
“Protect yourself first,” Roberts said.
To conclude the training course, Neal Smith an Extension Agent with the State of Tennessee gave a presentation on how to be more prepared to handle horses. Smith informed the audience to always be confident and quiet. He believed this is a big factor in staying safe while handling horses.
Smith made sure to include what a red bow in a horse’s tail means. This is to inform others that the horse is a known kicker. The red bow is there to let people know to really pay attention and use caution around an animal with the bow.
Students who attended the training course gained knowledge about the handling of common animals in the Weakley County and surrounding areas. Many of the students who attended the event plan to work with animals for their careers and can apply the techniques they learned both now and in the future.