There seems to be widespread complacency among horse owners when it comes to natural disaster preparedness. Preparing for disasters is crucial for maximizing response and minimizing injuries and loss of life of your animals.
The images of horses in hurricanes, floods, and the raging fires in recent years serves as a vivid reminder to pay more attention to preparation measures in the event of a natural disaster. You need to have a plan of action with proper information to make fast assessments that may save your horse's life.
One of the goals for animal rescuers is to reunite the owners and horses as soon as possible. These suggestions will help. You can never have too much identification on your horse in the event of a disaster! The following are tips for horse owners but can be tailored to other animals as well.
Identify Your Horse
After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 80 percent of the horses found had no identification. Permanently identify each horse by
- Hoof brand
- Etch hooves
- Paint phone number with nontoxic paint or last four digits of SS number
- Use ID bands on neck or pastern
- The following is a list of various ways to identify your horse both permanently and temporarily.
- Pictures—Take pictures of your horse with a family member. Put the pictures and place in a tightly sealed plastic bag with the following suggested items. Be creative. The more info you have in your bag the easier identification will be.
- Coggins test
- Identification registrations
- Pictures of special markings on your horse
- Brand pictures
- Tags—Place a halter on your horse with a luggage tag showing the owner's name, phone number, and email address. If your horse has special needs write them on an index card, place in a waterproof baggie, and tape around the halter. Farm Tag ID can be purchased in the NetPosse.com store
- Braid a second luggage tag into the horse’s tail with the above information. Be sure to include special needs and medical information. Do not tie the tag around the tail as circulation could be cut off.
- Place fetlock ID bands on both front feet.
- You could trim out your phone number on the hair of the horse. This will take time to grow out so keep that in mind before using this method.
- Make an ID file for each horse. Include horse name, sex, age, breed, color, ID registrations, breed registrations, unique markings such as scars, moles, etc, photos, current Coggins, current vaccination record, and insurance information.
- A hoof brand is a good temporary mark for disaster season. Brands may be purchased at www.netposse.com from the merchandise page.
Define your risk
Look at the area around you. What disasters are most likely to happen to you? Here is a list to help you review:
- Ice storm damage
- Chemical spills
- Government accidents (plane crashes, mistaken explosions, nuclear accident)
For each possible disaster ask and answer the following
- Who are the people you need to contact? (emergency preparedness team, Ag extension agent, veterinarian, animal control, police, local emergency groups, etc)
- What are your biggest risk factors?
- What can be done to decrease the damage?
- Review your current plan. What updates do you need to make?
Once your plan is defined on paper, PRACTICE, PRACTICE... Leave disaster area before the disaster strikes, early if possible to beat the rush of people leaving the area.
Contact Your Neighbors
Organize a neighborhood disaster committee with scheduled meetings to discuss ways to help each other in the event of a pending disaster. Discuss flood areas, equipment needed, Ag extension agent during a disaster, horse depot, etc.
You may want to:
- Agree to check on each other after a disaster.
- Exchange evacuation plans so you can be located
- Combine generators, trailers, water tanks, trucks, and other resources
Make sure you have all of the following shots up to date:
- Tetanus booster
Preparing for a Disaster
Here are tips that may be helpful. Which ones will work for you?
- Keep all vehicles full of gas and well maintained.
- Don’t put a copy of your Coggins test on your horse
- Contact your county's emergency management agency and see if your county has an animal disaster team. Request information on what would be expected of you in the event of a disaster in your area.
If you plan to evacuate have your route planned out in advance.
- List feeding instructions, medications (with dosage requirement), and contact information for your veterinarian.
- Don't forget to take your records with you.
- Choose the safest place for your horses for each disaster that could affect you or your property.
Know your evacuation route if that should become necessary.
- Are there drop off points for horses in your area? Find out and make sure you have all the required information before you need to use a facility.
- Keeping your horse in a barn or an open field is your choice. Remember debris flies rampant in a hurricane. Consider the: barn structure, trees, machinery, power lines, and the condition of surrounding areas
- Store all items from aisles and walls in a safe place.
- Store two weeks hay supply wrapped in waterproof plastic and feed in waterproof containers in the highest dry area you can find.
- Spay paint plywood boards with either “Animals need help on one side. Spray Animals OK for now on the other.
- Fill plastic trash cans with water and secure in a dry area. Make sure you put the lid tightly on the can.
- Check for alternate water resources. Have access to at least 4-5 days of feed and water.
- Have an emergency barn kit handy.
- Water Buckets
- Container with lid
- First Aide Kit--Betadine, antibiotic ointment, scissors, gauze and bandages, alcohol, ointment for feet, eye ointment, rags, leg raps, bleach or disinfectant
- Wire cutters
- Radio and batteries
- Flashlight and batteries
- Nontoxic markers or nontoxic paint
- Lead that is not nylon (fire-resistant)
In the Aftermath of Disaster
- Inform family, friends any way you can that you are ok. Don't forget officials in the area such as the Red Cross, FEMA, or other official groups.
- Contact local authorities if your horses are lost. You will need to prove ownership through documentation before claiming your horses. Listen to the Emergency Alert System on the radio for updated information.
- Before returning horses inspect your property for hazards that may have come from the disaster such as downed fences, power lines, nails, glass, metals, etc.
- Check with your state veterinarian about possible health treats caused by the disaster before releasing your horses.
- Some disasters cause confusion to horses in the aftermath. Make sure your horses are comfortable at home before leaving them. Horse ID bands work great for quick identification.
This article was written by Debi Metcalfe, Founder of Stolen Horse International. A download of this article can be found under the resource section of the NetPosse.com website.
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