For the first time, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, which is a lead member of the Florida State Agriculture Response Team (SART), is training first responders on the Space Coast.

  • UF veterinary college trains Space Coast first responders
  • Melbourne Fire, Brevard deputies role-played scenarios
  • Course is voluntary, open to any interested first responder

Melbourne Fire Department, along with team members of the Sheriff’s Office Animal Services division, spent the week role-playing real life animal rescue scenarios.

About 15 students worked on re-playing drills of large animals stuck in ditches, ending up in a sink hole and even extracting an animal from an overturned trailer.

The Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) was created after the state asked the school to create and teach crews throughout Florida to respond to different large animal distressed situations.

According to UF Vets Team Brandi Phillips, after hurricane Charley, Frances and Jeanne tore through Florida in 2004, it was clear first responders needed a course on how to deal with animal life and death situations.

“Often when there is a lot of rain we encounter more mud rescues, sink holes start to open up and animals get into them,” Phillips said.

Twenty-three-year veteran Melbourne firefighter Lt.  Payton Jones said he’s learning a thing or two about the difference between rescuing a person versus an animal.

“When it comes to animals you have to earn their trust by letting them smell you,” Jones explained.

To help students learn, the UF Vets Team brought a mannequin life-size dog and even a 600lbs horse mannequin named Randy to make the training more realistic.

The course is voluntary and open to any group of first responders interested in learning how to deal with large animal rescue situations. The VETS team equipment and training has been funded primarily through grants and donations.