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Disaster Planning

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Fires, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, blizzards, ice storms and other emergency situations can all develop quite quickly. The time to plan is now; long before disaster strikes. Veterinarians and state extension service can provide disaster preparedness advice for horses and farms that is tailored for local areas and specific situations. Here are a few disaster planning tips to get started:

  • Make sure preventive care is up-to-date. Horses should be current on vaccinations and have a valid proof of a negative Coggins test. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends that horses are vaccinated against Tetanus, Rabies, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and West Nile Virus. Requirements for what constitutes a current negative Coggins test vary from state to state, but are generally within 6 months to a year from the time of testing. Health certificates are typically valid for 30 days. Health certificates and proof of a negative Coggins are routinely required for the transportation of horses across state lines and at facilities where horses congregate, such as competition venues, racetracks, and fairgrounds. Be aware of the requirements for local facilities and those at the intended destination if evacuation during an emergency becomes necessary. Store copies of these documents, along with vaccination records and important phone numbers, in a safe but easily accessible location so they can be taken along during an emergency. Additionally, establish means of permanent identification for horses. Microchips, lip tattoos and freeze-brands are some of the most common types of permanent identification for horses. Veterinarians can help with microchipping. 
  • Make a plan. Having a well-established and rehearsed plan is an essential component to disaster preparedness. Provisions should be made both for evacuation and sheltering in-place. Putting the plans in writing will simplify the sequence of events during an actual emergency. Adhere means of identification to each horse if he does not have a permanent form of identification in place. Have first aid kits on-hand for both people and horses. Halters and lead ropes should be readily available for each horse. Extra halters and lead ropes for emergency use should be stored in an accessible place, away from the barn. Appropriate shelter, food, water and medications should be provided each horse for a minimum of 3-7 days. Water troughs, buckets, and clean, empty garbage cans can all serve as reservoirs. Owners should account for 12-20 gallons of water per horse, per day. Hay should be kept off the ground covered with waterproof tarps. Grain should be kept in water-tight containers. Similarly, any medications or supplements required should be stored in water-tight, easily accessible containers. Make sure the farm has a truck and trailer are in good, working condition with gas in the tank, and no barriers to access. If the farm does not have a trailer on premises, have reliable transportation plans in place for emergency situations. 
  • Help horses cope with stress. An emergency situation is not the time to discover that a horse won’t load on the trailer. Zylkene can be used as a training aid to help horses learn to load easily. Additionally, the product can help horses cope with stresses associated with the disaster. Relocation to unfamiliar surroundings, interactions with strangers, loud noises, trailering, disruption of the herd, changes in feeding, and injuries can all be stressful for horses. Zylkene can be used in both short and long-term situations to support stressed horses. 

Many resources are available to help individuals prepare for emergencies and natural disasters. The AVMA, ASPCA, and state and local emergency response agencies provide valuable information for horse owners. When creating a disaster plan for a farm, it is important not to forget to include provisions for dogs and cats as well. 

Good luck and stay safe!

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