The time to begin thinking about how you would get off your property safely with your large animals and livestock is well in advance to any disaster that may strike. Large animals take extra thought and planning, as well as a fair amount of equipment to get moved to a new location. We had one such occasion ourselves, when I left my husband standing in the driveway holding four horses during the Black Forest Fire. A friend was coming back with the trailer to get them…but we didn’t know if he had been held up or was unable to get through. I had no choice but to leave and hope for the best. Don’t wind up in this situation. Plan ahead and know how you will get all of your large animals and livestock to safety.
Make a Disaster Plan
Start by making a full and complete plan for your property. This plan should include telephone numbers for anyone who knows your animals or can help in the event of a quick evacuation. Include your veterinarian, Farrier, neighbors, local extension office, local animal shelter and animal control. Include the State Veterinarians Office as well as some trailering resources (even if you have access to your own trailer…you never know when you will have a mechanical problem.) Make a list of all animals on your property with their identifying marks, and pictures if possible.
Make a rough plan outlining how you will get your animals off of your property. Do you have the ability to trailer all of them? Will you require help to accomplish this? Decide these things now, before the disaster strikes.
Make Sure Your Animals Load Well
During disaster situations, people are anxious and so are animals. Practice loading prior to the moment that you must get out. If you have animals that do not load well, practice until they do. In a disaster, you may still have trouble loading your animals, but you will deal much better with any reluctant ones if you have practiced and made sure you can get the job done. Animals have been left behind in disaster when no one could load them. If your animals won’t load, your only available option may be to walk or ride them out: a terrifying alternative for some situations!
Stock a Disaster Kit
You can store your disaster plan in a large storage box, along with a simple disaster kit. This kit should include halters or ropes needed to catch and restrain animals, cages for poultry or smaller livestock, items to mark your animals for later identification (permanent markers to mark halters, spray paint to mark animals in the event they get free or must be set free, or plastic neckbands which can be written on). Also include a basic first aid kit, and emergency items for your vehicles or trailers.
At the time of evacuation, be sure to add feeders and buckets, a supply of food and water, medical records that pertain to all animals, any brand inspection paperwork (or leave copies in your kit), and any medical needs the animals have.
The Backup Plan
What will you do if disaster strikes when you are not at home? This scary thought does happen, so it’s best to get together with nearby neighbors and make a plan to help each other out if this situation ever occurs. Each participating neighbor should know as much as possible about the others animals, as well as the location of any emergency supplies. Sometimes disaster strikes very quickly, so making a co-op of people who agree to help out can be a big step in being prepared.
The Shelter in Place
There may be a time when you are either unable to evacuate or you are asked by local officials to “shelter in place”. This means you need to be prepared for you and all your animals to be able to stay on your property for an extended period of time.
Have 7-10 days worth of feed for your animals available at any given time, so that you can cope if you are sheltering. Be sure to have water available for your animals as well in case you do not have access to your regular water sources. In that situation, you will need water for your human family as well, so be prepared to provide for your animals the best that you can.
Make sure livestock and horses have a way to get away from the disaster. The response to this will depend a lot on the problem but, as an example, if there is flooding; they will need to be able to get to higher ground. Think about the most likely scenarios for your region and make a plan based on those scenarios.
When Disaster Strikes
If you become aware of a potential problem that may force you to evacuate, start getting ready. Don’t wait. As soon as you are asked to evacuate, you will want to move quickly. If you wait, you could put yourself in a situation where officials may force you to leave your animals behind. Even if they can survive, they may be left for days with no one to care for them or meet their needs for water and food. Don’t wait if you are told it is time to go.
Preparing for your animals ahead of time can help you sleep a whole lot easier at night. Hopefully, disaster will never strike, but it pays to think ahead and have a good solid plan for your large animals and livestock just in case.