Whenever natural disasters strike, animals also could be endangered, so a Spokane group is getting ready to come to the rescue.
On Sunday, two dozen team members and instructors gathered at the Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside State Park to practice rescue techniques in fast-moving water.
Team members put on wet suits and clambered into the river to learn how to use ropes for river rescues.
“It’s very dangerous,” said Dick Green, of the Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team (HEART) in Spokane.
The class was scheduled for November to train students in weather conditions typical of autumn or winter floods, Green said.
“We were turning blue out there,” said student Kiantha Shadduck of Coeur d’Alene. The three-day technical animal rescue class in Spokane drew 16 local rescuers as well as students from around the country.
Shadduck said she volunteered for the group because she loves animals. She is also a member of Animal Advocates of the Inland Northwest.
The HEART group was re-formed earlier this year with the cooperation of animal shelter and emergency management officials. The group will help shelter and reunite animals with owners in case of disasters such as a wildfire, flood or ice storm.
Green, who works as international disaster director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said floods in Western Washington and Oregon prompted two rescue operations last week, including a successful effort to save six horses, a dozen cows and chickens stranded along a river in Snohomish County. In the other rescue, about two dozen cows drowned before water receded enough to allow crews to save nearly 125 others stranded near Tillamook, Ore.
“Large animals are very difficult to rescue,” Green said.
For the class, Green teamed with Nicholas Gilman of Humane Logic in Boston. Some of their techniques were used after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Spokane firefighter Scott Coldiron, a member of the department’s swift water rescue team, helped out as an instructor during Sunday’s water training and he stressed the need for safety. “As soon as you get in the water, the river has control,” he said.
He was joined by fellow Spokane firefighter Brenda Stanton, who took the class as a student because “I love animals.”
Stanton, a rescue group member, also volunteers at the Spokane Humane Society, where she walks dogs, and gives classes on how to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Green, who serves on the board of directors for the Humane Society, financed the $2,500 class through a grant from the American Humane Association, which monitors disasters and sends out rescue teams.
“Whenever there is a disaster, they call us and we respond,” Green said.