Animal Restraint Techniques

Randy Kidd, veterinarian at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., offers tips on animal restraint techniques for rabbits, fowl, sheep, goats, pigs and cattle.

| July/August 1978

One of the most important facets of "animal medicine" — and one of the first things they teach you in veterinary school — is animal restraint: the gentle art of getting your "patient" (be it a bull or a bantam hen) to stand still long enough for you to help it . . . or even find out "what ails the beast."

As you already know if you've had any experience with livestock, it's darn near impossible to inject medication into a moving target . . . and all too easy to find yourself in the way of a swiftly moving jaw, hoof or horn. It's absolutely essential, then — for the well-being of both the animal and its owner — for an "under the weather" critter to be kept still during treatment.

That doesn't mean, however, that a young steer — say — has to be boxed, tied and tranquilized before it can be given a dose of oral vitamins. In general, the best animal restraint is no restraint at all. When you can apply treatment to an animal without tying it down (or doping it up), do so! If — on the other hand — you must catch and hold the critter, the idea is to do the job without hurting yourself or the beast. And that, basically, is what this article is all about.

A Word of Caution for Animal Restraint

One thing you should always bear in mind when you're dealing with an animal that isn't used to being restrained (and most aren't) is that flight is a beast's first response to being caught. Even the most docile doe kid goat can — when she senses she's being trapped — turn into a thrashing handful of teeth, horns and hooves. The moral: Expect the unexpected. Always assume, too, that any creature which is bigger than you is also much stronger and act accordingly.

How to Pick Up Bunnies

Rabbits will — on occasion — bite or kick with their front feet, but their best defense (without a doubt) is their hind legs, which they can use to strike assailants with amazing speed, force and rapidity. Here's how to avoid getting a "swift kick" the next time you have to handle one of the furry critters:

In the case of a small — or medium — sized hare, grab the animal by the scruff of the neck (NEVER by the ears) with one hand and slide your other hand under the lower part of the bunny's curved back. (Do not place your hand or forearm against the animal's hind feet.) If you're dealing with a larger rabbit, simply grasp the fold of skin on his neck with one hand and support his lower back with your other arm, then position the animal so that his head fits under your arm, his body rests against your hip and his "thumping end" is aimed away from you.

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