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For the Love of Large Animals - Training for Emergencies


For the Love of Large Animals - Training for Emergencies

By Julie Atwood

Show your love for your community by investing in preparation and supporting training for first responders to help large animals in any kind of emergency.  

Most of us know what to do when there’s an emergency that involves our pets, but what about the large animals that play such an important role in Sonoma County life? 

While it’s true that not everyone in the region has horses or livestock, many do.  An emergency involving an animal that weighs hundreds, or thousands, of pounds can create a dangerous situation that can quickly impact others.

Not long ago, near Glen Ellen, a car drove through pasture fencing along Highway 12.  The gaping hole in the fence allowed livestock to wander onto the highway, creating a safety hazard to motorists, as well as endangering the cattle.  While neighbors quickly averted a calamity, trained first responders would have been even better, and, a lot safer. This sort of accident is a common occurrence on our country and coastal roads. 

Large Animal Rescue for emergency movingIn a bigger emergency, loose and injured livestock become a critical public safety problem. So can the people who own them, when they are faced with difficult decisions as to whether to stay or to evacuate, and how. Well-meaning bystanders and volunteers can also become part of the problem unless they have been educated in the protocols governing emergency "incident command" systems and procedures. Trained first responders, and educated, prepared residents can spell the difference between winning or losing in the struggle to stay alive and keep animals safe, too.

I created HALTER (Horse and Livestock Team Emergency Response) in 2012 to help keep people and large animals safe in any kind of emergency. HALTER connects first responders with certified instructors to teach Large Animal Rescue (LAR) skills and helps them acquire necessary specialized equipment. It supports rural community members by connecting them with access to the information and training resources to learn how to be safe, aware, and useful in any type of emergency.

Learn about keeping those you love safe, whether they have two legs or four, fur or feathers by visiting the HALTER website at for information on:

  • Trainings for first responders
  • How to become a Certified Animal Disaster Worker
  • Creating  "Ranch Ready" emergency kits for yourself and your Valentine

Spread the love:

Donate to your local Fire Department and earmark your gift for Large Animal Rescue Training. Check with your local department, or consider donating to the Graton Firefighters Association (Graton Firefighters Assoc., PO Box A, Graton, CA 95444) to help complete their LAR equipment "cache".  Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard has stepped up in a major way to develop personnel with large animal rescue skills. Among several Graton, Windsor, and Glen Ellen firefighters, Graton Volunteer Sapphire Alvarez has completed two training sessions and is about to engage in a third.  With this kind of dedication and training, the Graton VFD is one of the local leaders in LAR. 

Loving the land, our animals, and our firefighters means being informed and ready. First responders who have knowledge and skills in the safe and humane handling of horses and livestock, supported by savvy, schooled volunteers and residents, mean everyone will be safer in a rural emergency of any kind.



About the Author:  Julie Atwood is a horsewoman and rancher in Glen Ellen, California.  She founded the HALTER  (Horse and Livestock Team Emergency Response) Project in 2012 to help people and animals be safe in any emergency.  HALTER spreads the love by supporting the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Disaster Preparedness Training Fund, along with the efforts of local groups working to improve rural safety and preparedness. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors recently honored HALTER with a Gold Resolution. Discover more at