A LIFE sized mannequin horse and other specialised equipment has been brought in at a cost of £14,000 to help firefighters train in animal rescue.

The fake horse, which is 15 hands high, has been funded by the Wiltshire branches of the RSPCA to allow Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to practise the specialist techniques used to save animals that have got into trouble.

Wiltshire’s chief fire officer Andy Goves said the RSPCA funding demonstrates partnership working to improve services to the community.

“We carried out a thorough review of our rural safety procedures earlier this year and it became clear that we needed to make a large-scale investment in more specialist equipment and training.

“This will ensure that both people and animals are better protected during these difficult and traumatic rescues which affect the animals, their owners and our firefighters, who put themselves at risk to carry out such rescues.

“Wiltshire has such an expanse of rural areas within its boundaries that we saw the need to increase and further develop our specialist knowledge within the service.”

Specialist animal rescue equipment is also being purchased, and firefighters Amesbury are currently being trained in animal rescue techniques.

Supporting the specialist crews will be two officers being brought in to deliver important messages about community fire safety and assess risk critical information to improve firefighter safety.

They will be visiting farms, holding talks in the rural community, mapping and identifying water sources and other rcritical information such as the presence of gas cylinders, which are extremely dangerous to firefighters when involved in fire.

They will also work directly with firefighters to increase their knowledge and understanding of animal rescue issues.

The mid Wiltshire branch of the RSPCA contributed £11,000 towards the equipment, with a further £3,000 given in total by the north Wiltshire and south Wiltshire and district branches.

Andy Sheppard, treasurer with the mid Wiltshire branch, said: “We had a presentation by watch manager Tom Brolan about the work carried out by Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service in helping the rural community, and we were very impressed by the obvious dedication and commitment to providing the very best service possible to the local community by creating a designated animal rescue unit.

“The three Wiltshire branches of the RSPCA are delighted to support the Fire & Rescue Service in this way, and we are confident that the equipment and training funded by our contribution will make all the difference to how animal rescues are carried out in future.”