Massey University’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team show paramedics and dog handlers how to bandage Christchurch search dog Boo.

Rescue workers trained to treat injured search dogs

Urban Search and Rescue workers have received training to treat injured working dogs at a Massey University course this week, prompted by the dangers of searching collapsed buildings following the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011.

St John intensive care paramedics and Urban Search and Rescue dog handlers from throughout New Zealand were trained to be first responders by Massey’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) on the Manawatū campus. The dogs played a critical role in finding people trapped in buildings or under rubble, completing more than 80 searches after the quake.

VERT team leader Hayley Squance says this is the first time New Zealand’s Urban Search and Rescue dog handlers have been taught to respond on site and stabilize their dogs. “This is something good coming out of a national disaster. The dogs are key team members of any response team, so being able to care for them is important.

“The paramedics have found a lot of similarities between caring for dogs and humans,” Ms Squance says.

Participants learned to carry out procedures such as CPR, intravenous fluid therapy, intubation, bandaging and splintering with four working dogs from Christchurch – Rookie, Boo, Cairo and Keepa.

Christchurch based President of the Search Dog Association Tim Drennan says the February earthquake highlighted a gap in the training needed to care for the rescue dogs. “It is just sheer luck that there were no major injuries to search dogs other than minor cuts. This training will help us to provide a greater level of care.”

Mr Drennan says the training will allow the New Zealand Fire Service to deploy Kiwi Urban Search and Rescue dog handlers to assist with overseas disasters. The Fire Service is currently applying for accreditation with the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and the training is essential.

The Massey Veterinary Emergency Response Team is based at the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at the Manawatū campus and comprises veterinarians, veterinary technologists and vet nurses with expertise in companion animals and livestock.

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