Milton, GA Fire Department Creates First-in-State Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Team

ARTICLE | Feb 25, 2014

Milton, Georgia was established as a city on December 1, 2006 and the Milton Fire Department was formed shortly thereafter on April 30, 2007. Milton lies in the Northern portion of Fulton County and has a population of nearly 34,000 residents and covers 23,000 acres and is about  40 minutes North of Atlanta. In 2011, the City of Milton was recognized as having the highest quality of life in the state of Georgia and ninth-highest quality of life in the southern United States by the Business Journals’ “On Numbers” survey.

The City of Milton fire department provides a high level of customer service and strives to meet the needs of its citizens no matter what the nature of the emergency may be.  One day a citizen asked, “What do you do if a horse trailer is overturned in a wreck and you have an injured horse? How do you get it out”?  We didn’t have a plan in place and had never trained to handle a situation involving injured or entrapped animals. A horse becoming involved in emergency situations is not a new phenomenon. For years and years, horse owners have been dealing with their horses becoming entangled in barb wire, falling into sink holes or swimming pools, breaking a leg on a trail ride, getting stuck in mud, and the list goes on and on. We began to search for training that dealt specifically with emergencies involving large animals. We found the training, but quickly realized that if we were going to establish a Large Animal Emergency Rescue team with all of the essential equipment it was going to require substantial funding. We knew that this was a service that would not benefit every citizen of Milton. For that reason, we decided to fund this service solely on donations rather than with tax dollars. Word quickly spread throughout the equestrian community in Milton and in the surrounding jurisdictions that we were going to form a Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue team, (TLAER), within the Milton Fire Department.  In order to accomplish this, we were going to need their help. The response was overwhelming to say the least! The donations started coming in not only from Milton residents, but from citizens in neighboring jurisdictions and special interest groups and clubs as well. It is through this support that the Milton Fire Department became the first fire department in the State of Georgia to have an organized Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Team which was placed in service in August 2008.  The money that has been donated has allowed us to purchase the vital equipment that we need to perform emergency rescues. Probably the most significant purchase that we have made to date is a fully articulating training horse manikin which allows us to safely train for virtually any scenario imaginable. Our most recent purchase, an A-Frame, will allow us to safely lift and remove a large animal from various types of incidents such as an animal that has fallen into a sink hole, or a horse that is down and unable to stand under its own power.

As we established our Large Animal Emergency Rescue team, we also created an Operational Response Policy which established the rules and regulations for how our personnel would be trained and how we would safely deal with and eradicate emergency incidents involving large animals. In addition to how we would respond and deal with large animal incidents, we also had to determine the response area that we would effectively be able to cover. It was established that Milton’s TLAER team would respond to calls not only in the city of Milton, but would also respond to request for assistance from any of the jurisdictions that border Milton.

When responding to Large Animal Emergencies, it is often necessary to have a Veterinarian respond to the incident as well. We have many Veterinarians in Milton and in the surrounding jurisdictions who have graciously agreed to respond to our incidents and have worked with us on many occasions to look after the medical needs of the animals we are rescuing.

Although we continue to obtain the vital equipment needed to perform Large Animal Rescues, there can be no replacement for the valuable contribution of assistance that has been made by several Towing services and private citizens who have provided a resource for lifting an animal at various incidents we have had.

To date, Milton’s TLAER team has responded to more than 80 incidents in Milton and the surrounding jurisdictions. We have responded to horses and cows in swimming pools, horses in sink holes and down ravines, horses trapped in flooded stables and horses stuck in mud, just to name a few.

Twenty years ago, people dealt with these same emergencies the best way they knew how and usually without a positive outcome. Today, through specialized training, post incident critiques, and the establishment of more Large Animal Emergency Rescue teams across the country, we are seeing better survival rates for large animals involved in emergencies and we are seeing the fire departments role of serving the public expand to new heights.       

Incorporated on Dec. 1, 2006, the City of Milton has been recognized for having the highest quality of life in the state of Georgia and ninth-highest in the southern United States by the Business Journals' "On Numbers" survey. It is a distinctive community that embraces small-town life and heritage while preserving and enhancing the city's rural character. The City of Milton will provide opportunity and value in a responsive and responsible environment through active partnerships with the community and its stakeholders. For more information, visit or call 678-242-2500.

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