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Hosted by the Beef Cattle Institute

at Kansas State University May 19-21


Human Safety and Animal Rescue

Livestock handling expert Jennifer Woods offers tips for ensuring the safety of rescuers, bystanders and livestock on the scene of an accident.

MANHATTAN, Kan. (May 19, 2010) — There are ample reasons why accidents involving loaded livestock transporters and stock trailers can occur. It could be because of driver fatigue or inexperience. Road conditions may be dangerous. A live load of livestock might shift, contributing to a trailer turnover, especially if the rig takes a corner at excessive speed. Trailer or tow vehicle maintenance issues may also be to blame. In many cases, several factors contribute to accidents.


Regardless of how an accident happened, it creates a situation where responders may have to attend to trapped, injured or escaped animals. However, according to livestock emergency response specialist Jennifer Woods, the first consideration should be for human safety. During the Emergency Preparedness Seminar that preceded the International Symposium on Beef Cattle Well-Being, the Alberta, Canada-based consultant shared advice for minimizing risk to responders and onlookers while attempting to rescue cattle.


Job-one at an accident scene is attending to drivers and passengers of involved vehicles. Then, Woods said, evaluate livestock that may be running loose.


“Are they agitated and presenting a threat to humans? Injured but mobile animals are the most dangerous,” Woods explained. “There are times when, in the name of human safety, euthanasia is the best course of action.”


When dealing with loose or trapped animals, Woods recommended involving only as many responders as is absolutely necessary. Crowd control can be critical. Onlookers and media personnel should be moved back and out of the way to reduce noise and activity that frighten the animals and increase risk of human injury.


Woods also offered tips for rescuing animals that remain in trailers following an accident:

— If a trailer remains upright and can be towed, it should be moved to a location where animals can be contained after unloading.


— Never unload cattle to run loose along a busy roadway. Cattle should not be unloaded until they can be contained. Portable livestock panels can be brought to the scene to erect an emergency containment pen.


— Do not try to transfer cattle from one trailer, directly into another trailer. Unload into a pen first, and then reload in the second trailer.


— If a loaded trailer has overturned, don’t try to set it upright while still loaded. The trailer may tear apart, injuring the cattle or releasing them among workers and traffic.


— Entering a loaded trailer to handle cattle is risky. Avoid situations where the handler may be trapped with no means of escape.


— If an overturned trailer must be cut open to rescue cattle, make sure it is stabilized to prevent further shifting.


— When choosing where to cut into a trailer, first determine locations of live cattle within. Choose the most practical and safest locations to create openings for removing livestock. Give careful attention to structural design of the trailer and do not cut supports important to structural integrity.

“The most important thing is to think about what you are doing before you do it,” Woods stated. “And always remember that human safety takes precedence over animal rescue.”

The beef cattle welfare symposium was conducted on campus at K-State University May 19-21. For additional presentation summaries, return to the Meetings > Other Industry Meetings > News Coverage page of the API Virtual Library. For more about the symposium and an archive to the 2008 symposium, visit

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or distributed without the express permission of API. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.