By Amy Perry, Fort Lee Public Affairs

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FORT LEE, Va. – FORT LEE, Va. – Personnel from Fort Lee’s Fire and Emergency Services, along with first responders from the local communities and several members of a special Coast Guard canine group, learned all about Tactical Canine Casualty Care during a two-day session Sept. 14-15 at Fire Station No. 2.

Dr. Janice Baker, a veterinarian and instructor with the Veterinary Tactical Group, taught emergency care for injured military working dogs in a tactical environment.

There’s a variety of training for first responders to react to active shooter incidents and caring for gunshot victims or other serious injuries, said Baker. If a MWD gets hurt, this training prepares those first responders to do emergency care in the field.

“There won’t be a veterinarian right there at the point of injury, but there might be a paramedic or dog handler who can render that first responder treatment on the way to the veterinarian,” she said.

Law enforcement and military dogs are in the line of danger every day, just like their human counterparts, said Baker.

“They face the same hazards,” she said. “Every day there’s a dog injured from some kind of line-of-duty injury. We’re not teaching basic first aid, we’re teaching treatment of life-threatening injuries.”

Often, if these dogs are seriously injured, they need treatment within the first few minutes.

“We all learn about the golden hour of trauma, but it’s really the golden 10 minutes,” she said. “It’s important first responders learn what to do, because their actions right there when the dog is injured are important to saving the dog’s life.”

Baker said she could tell the group was enthusiastic about receiving the training that was new to them.

“This is probably one of the most motivated classes I’ve taught in the seven years of doing this training,” she said. “As soon as we start a new lesson, they are peppering us with questions, eager to learn more.

“When we do the training scenarios, there is a degree of artificiality because we use training dummy dogs that have been altered to have fake wounds … but they take it completely seriously,” Baker continued. “Even with introducing role players like frantic handlers or someone who hit the dog with their car, they handle the situation as if it were real.”

Assistant Chief Brian Harness, chief of emergency medical services, F&ES, helped coordinate get the training at Fort Lee to help his team grow.

“We’re in the process of building our tactical emergency care program,” he said. “We’ve trained the firefighter medics and a large part of the law enforcement population here on how to take care of themselves or other patients we encounter during tactical situations. This is a building block to help take care of the military working dogs or search dogs, for example. But these skills also can help us with pets during emergency situations, like if they are hit by a car or were involved in a house fire.

“We’re learning emergency skills to sustain those animals until we can get them to a veterinarian,” Harness continued. “It’s important to note we are not replacing those doctors, just trying to make sure the animals make it to that care with a better chance of survival.”

The training stresses how dogs are to their handlers or owners, Harness said.

“For many people, their pets are their kids,” he said. “To those handlers, those dogs are law enforcement officers. Those working dogs shot in the line of duty are the same as an officer and receive the same burial honors.

One of Fort Lee’s participants was Fire Capt. John Frampton, hazmat captain and paramedic, who said he enjoyed the class and learned a lot.

“I thought the class sounded interesting, and with all the active shooter training conducted, we’ve learned there’s a chance a working dog could be hurt, and they need to be taken care of,” he said. “They are part of the team, and they should be treated the same.

“In a lot of ways, dogs are similar to humans, but I’ve never received any formal training on taking care of them,” Frampton continued. “If something happened to them, we need the skills to take care of them so they can make it to more definitive care from a veterinarian.”

Harness said he thought the training was beneficial and that the unit is planning to continue it in the future.