Animal Care & Welfare: Large Animal Evacuation
As we head into our season of un-predictable and detrimental weather, we are surrounded by stories of fires and evacuations… and awful heart-wrenching stories of abandoned animals left to fend for themselves.
If we had to evacuate in a hurry, would you be able to take all of your animals? Do you have horses, sheep, goats, llamas, pigs….? Do you have a plan to get them to safety in an emergency? But what exactly can we DO… like, right now?
If possible, evacuate early. If our incredible and experienced safety professionals suggest we leave, we should leave. Map it out- have several routes planned. Call your family up north or your friend down south and have this conversation.
Identification is crucial. Micro-chips, tattoos or halters/collars with information on them can all be tools that reunite you with your surviving animals. If you have only minutes to identify 20 goats before opening the gate, use spray paint. One knowledgeable and experienced local vet tech said you can use a Sharpie to write your phone number on your horse’s hooves. Take pictures because you will be relying heavily upon local communication, such as the radio and local social media platforms.
Prepare ‘evacuation kits’ for your animals- one carrier/kennel per animal (if possible), water, food and medications. Dr. Karen Novak of Village Veterinary says that “It’s a good idea to have an extra supply of any crucial medications”. One large animal tip is to store your kit in a heavy duty trash can that you can later use to haul water.
Make sure vehicles and trailers are ready to go- tires are inflated, battery is charged, gas tank is full . . . . Yes, your friend said you could use his horse trailer, but have you made sure your ball matches his hitch?
Practice your plan!! Familiarize your animals with trailers and carriers- don’t wait until it’s an emergency to train your horse to load.
At the very least, familiarize yourself with your obvious options. Fairgrounds are usually open to housing large animals in evacuation circumstances. Call these facilities and learn their protocols. We have the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville (707-895-3011) and the Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah (707-462-3884). Down south we have the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa (707-545-4200), and up north we have the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale (707-786-9511). Understand that you need to leave food, water and identification (among other things) if you leave your animals. Taking time now could save your animals later.