Crashed van full of exotic critters poses rescue dilemma in Brunswick

Posted Nov. 23, 2011, at 3 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — A large van transporting exotic animals from Augusta to Massachusetts rolled off Interstate 295 southbound during heavy snowfall this morning, leaving the driver and responding law enforcement officers to decide how best to respond without risking injury to the animals or other drivers on the highway.

Maine State Police initially responded to the single-vehicle crash between Brunswick and Topsham at approximately 8 a.m. today, Animal Control Officer Heidi Nelson of the Brunswick Police Department said.

Nelson arrived not long after, and saw the van — about the size of a small school bus, she said — on its side in a snowbank beside the highway.

The driver, whose name and other information was not immediately available today, did not report being injured, Nelson said.

He told officials that the van contained “lots” of parrots, parakeets, chinchillas, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs.

So Maine State Police contacted Nelson.

“I said, ‘We don’t want to open the vehicle at this point to check the condition of the animals because: One, they’re used to being in a controlled climate; and two, we don’t want the animals, if they’ve escaped from their cages, busting down the door to cause accidents,” Nelson said.

She suggested a tow truck take the van to a contained area — possibly the Brunswick Public Works garage — to allow the driver to safely open the door and inspect the animals.

But due to the location of the crash, a tow truck would have had to continue south to Freeport and turn back to get to the Brunswick garage, so Brunswick communications officers instead obtained permission to use the Freeport Public Works building.

Then Nelson called local veterinarians to see who could treat any potentially injured exotic animals. She found a vet in Yarmouth to keep on standby.

In the meantime, a single tow truck was not enough to pull the van from the snowbank, so a second truck responded, and the van and driver rode to the Freeport Public Works garage on a flat bed, Nelson said. The driver was scheduled to inspect the van and animals early this afternoon.

Calls to the Maine State Police were not immediately returned today.

To see more from The Times Record, visit timesrecord.com.

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