Horses Require Extra Consideration In Disaster Planning:
Animal emergencies create danger for animals and their owners. Lack of preparation often leads to unnecessary tragedy, human injury, and economic loss. Pennsylvania is home to millions of agricultural and domestic animals. The Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team encourages all horse owners to evacuate with their animals to prevent endangering human and animal lives.
By remembering to include your horses as part of your family’s emergency evacuation plan, you can avoid those last minute decisions that could endanger the safety of your family and horses. A good disaster plan is vital to keeping yourself and your animal companions safe. But horses require extra consideration because of their size and specific transportation needs. Since you won’t have much time to think or act during an emergency, take time now to create an effective emergency plan.
Planning For A Disaster Involving Horses:
Permanently identify each horse by tattoo, microchip, brand, or photograph. In your records, include the horse’s age, sex, breed, and color. Keep this information with your important papers.
Keep halters ready for your horses. On each halter attach a luggage tag with the following information: the horse’s name, your name, email address, your telephone number, and another emergency telephone number where someone can be reached. At the time of evacuation, consider additional temporary identification such as a leg band.
Place your horses’ Coggins tests, veterinary papers, identification photographs, and vital information—such as medical history, allergies, and emergency telephone numbers (veterinarian, family members, etc.)—in a watertight envelope. Store the envelope with your other important papers in a safe place that will be easy for you to access, so you can take them with you when you and your horses evacuate.
Make arrangements in advance to have your horse trailered in case of an emergency. If you don’t have your own trailer or don’t have enough room in your trailer for horses, be sure you have several people on standby to help evacuate your horses.
It is important that your horses are comfortable being loaded onto a trailer. If your horses are unaccustomed to being loaded onto a trailer, practice the procedure so they become used to it.
Know where you can take your horses in an emergency evacuation. When possible, make arrangements with a friend or another horse owner to stable your horses well beyond the region at risk. Contact your local animal care and control agency, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area.
If You Cannot Evacuate With Your Horse:
Have a back-up plan in case it’s impossible to take your horse with your when you evacuate. Consider different types of disasters and whether your horses would be better off in a barn or loose in a field. Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.
Share your evacuation plans with friends and neighbors. Post detailed instructions in several places—including the barn office or tack room, the horse trailer, and barn entrances—to ensure emergency workers can see them in case you are not able to evacuate your horses yourself.
When Disaster Strikes:
Don’t leave your horse behind. A situation that isn’t safe for you won’t be safe for your equine companion, either.
Evacuate immediately. If you wait until the last minute to evacuate, emergency management officials may tell you that you must leave your horses behind. In this case, your horses could be unattended for days without care, food, or water.
Supplies For Horses:
The following items are recommended for inclusion in a disaster kit specifically for horses. Make one kit for each horse in your care.
Food and Water:
- One-week supply of the food or special feed your horse is used to eating. Store in an airtight, waterproof container and rotate every three months to ensure freshness
- One-week supply of water, stored in a cool, dark location. 50-gallon barrels are good for storing water
- If tap water is not suitable for humans to drink during a disaster, it is also not suitable for cats to drink
- Feeding and water buckets
Cleaning and Sanitation:
- One-week supply of dry shavings to be spread out in the horse’s stall
- Pitch fork, wheelbarrow and/or muck bucket
- Maintaining a clean environment for horses during a disaster minimizes the threat of disease
- Permanent identification like microchipping, tattoos or freeze branding
- Temporary, easily-visible identification, such as:
- Using a livestock crayon and write your name, phone number and address on the horse
- Using clippers to shave your name, address and phone number in the horse’s coat
- Braiding into the horse’s mane an ID tag with your name, address and phone number
- Temporary identification tag that you can write your temporary location on in case your horse is separated from you
- Current pictures of you with your horse to prove ownership if you are separated
- Copy of the Bill of Sale or other documentation that can prove ownership
Horse Health and Safety:
- A two-week supply of any long-term medication your horse is taking
- Medical records, including vaccination records. Keep your horse up-to-date on vaccinations, especially tetanus, as disasters increase the risk of getting cut
- A copy of your horse’s current Coggins certificate
- First aid kit containing cotton and cotton rolls, disposable surgical gloves, vet wraps, duct tape, telfa pads, Betadine, instant cold packs, easy boot, diapers, Furazone, scissors, Blue Lotion and tweezers. Ask your veterinarian what else to include.
Housing and Transportation of Horses:
- A horse trailer and a truck that can safely pull it, in case you have to evacuate. Conduct periodic safety checks of the the floor of the trailer, the trailer hitch, tires and lights.
- Rope to tie out your horse in case you don’t have access to a stable. (train your horse to tether before disaster strikes)
- Halter and lead rope, preferably not made of nylon, which can melt in the event of a fire.
- Pre-identified locations where you can evacuate your horses, such as equine centers, boarding stables, racetracks, and fairgrounds.
Because horses are so large, significant advanced planning is required to evacuate and shelter them temporarily in case of disaster. If you don’t have a trailer or enough trailer space for the number of horses you have, work out ahead of time other arrangements for transporting your horse(s). Identify friends or relatives who could help, or transportation services available for hire.
It takes time to move larger animals. If disaster is imminent, allow plenty of time to get them to safety. Do not wait until the last minute. If you have a horse who is not accustomed to being in a trailer, practice loading and unloading with the horse as part of your regular routine.
Set up a “buddy system” with a fellow horse owner so you can evacuate each other’s animals if one of you is out of town when disaster strikes.
Lessons From Past Disasters Involving Horses:
- Collapsed Barns – Owners thought their animals were safe inside their barn.
- Kidney Failure – Due to dehydration, wandering animals were deprived of water for days.
- Electrocution – Horses sought the lowest areas, in many cases this was a drainage ditch. The power lines that were blown down during the storm were strung over drainage ditches.
- Fencing Failure – Wandering animals, although unharmed during the storm, were hit and killed on the roadways.
One of the very common calls we receive is a horse has fallen into a sinkhole that developed after a big rain fall. We recommend to inspect your grounds for sinkholes after any type of substantial amount of rain fall. Doing this periodically must just save your horses life.
The information above about Disaster Preparedness for Horses is a combination of information provided by the organizations listed below.
Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team – Information for Horse Owners
Red Rover Horse Tips
The Humane Society of the United States – Disaster Preparedness for Horses
For more information about the Luzerne County Animal Response Team visit our About page.
You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/luzernecountyanimalresponseteam