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WMRL Conference Helps Rescue Dogs
April 20, 2006

It was a lesson learned on September 11. Learned again in Oklahoma City. And learned again most recently in the aftermath of Katrina.

Rescue dogs save lives.

But who saves the rescue dogs when they are injured - as is often the case in emergency scenarios.

An upcoming conference at Calvin College will address that question.

On May 6-7, the West Michigan Regional Laboratory (WMRL), Michigan State University and American Medical Response are teaming up to sponsor "K911: Emergency Life Support for the Search and Rescue Dog."

The conference will teach emergency service and law enforcement personnel how to better care for injured working dogs.

"This is a world-class conference," says Dr. Alan Davis, director of the WMRL. "To have it come to West Michigan is a real coup. Emergency service and law enforcement personnel will really benefit from this conference."

The upcoming conference at Calvin is modeled after a course currently offered at the University of Florida and it will serve as training for canine handlers throughout the Midwest.

Calvin first offered the course last November and had a number of local handlers on campus for the two-day event, including Craig Veldheer of American Medical Response. Veldheer is a team leader for Urban Search and Rescue, a nationwide organization, and is a member of Third Coast Canine Search and Rescue, a missing persons response team serving the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes region. He echoes Davis' comments about the benefits of the upcoming conference.

K911 will be taught by veterinary specialists from Michigan State University and the University of Florida, including lead lectures via video conferencing by Dr. Sheilah Robertson, the University of Florida professor who designed the course.

Davis notes that those who participate in the conference will not only gain knowledge, but also the confidence and skills necessary to provide immediate, stabilizing care to injured dogs, giving them the best chance of reaching a veterinarian alive.

Michigan State organizers are pleased to be part of the conference.

"It provides a timely service to our nation and benefits working dogs that serve mankind. It is a win-win situation," says Dr. Janver Krehbiel, acting dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Lecture topics will include advanced emergency care skills for smoke inhalation and burn care, narcotic overdose, emergency medications, CPR and more. A skills session will teach vital signs, bandaging, airway management and other emergency procedures.

The Kent County Animal Shelter is donating dogs to serve as models for these nonsurgical procedures. Local veterinarians have volunteered to neuter the dogs following the conference and the dogs will then be available for adoption.

"These dogs are heroes, saving the lives of other dogs," says Davis. "If not used for this event, they would be euthanized, like many local strays. They will not be harmed, their care will be supervised by a veterinarian at all times and they will receive loving homes."

The registration fee for just the lectures is $150. Conference registrants who wish to attend both days (the lectures and the skills sessions) pay $300. For information on registering for the conference see www.wmrl.net or phone WMRL at 616-526-8440.