BATON ROUGE, LA—With hurricane season upon us, horse owners should take proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of their animals. Here are some tips from the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART – lsart.org), the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (ldaf.state.la.us), and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (lsu.edu/vetmed) for effectively preparing horse owners in areas prone to hurricane damage:
- Develop a personal plan with provisions for your entire family including your animals and update the plan yearly. Saving the Whole Family is a useful guide from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which can be found at avma.org/resources/pet-owners/
Health and Identification
- Ensure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date for tetanus and the encephalitis viruses (Rabies, Eastern, Western, and West Nile).
- Establish a network and communication plan with the horse and farm animal-owning neighbors in your parish. Get to know one another, hold meetings to discuss various scenarios, and identify local resources for handling disaster situations. Be prepared to assist one another.
- Familiarize yourself with your parish emergency managers, who are responsible during emergencies. Visit gohsep.la.gov/ABOUT/STATE-
REGIONS for specific contact information.
- Be sure that your horse has two forms of identification: (1) Permanent identification such as a microchip, tattoo or brand, and (2) Luggage-type tag secured to the tail and halter (be sure to use a leather halter for break-away purposes). Fetlock tags are useful and can be acquired on-line or from a local farm supply store or you can use a paint stick or non-toxic spray paint. Clearly legible tags should include your name, address, and phone number (preferably someone out of state in case of local phone outages).
- Keep a record of the microchip number (E.I.A. or Coggins form) in an easily accessible location. It is advisable to keep a duplicate copy with a family member or friend in a distant location for safekeeping.
- Always plan to evacuate if possible. Identify a destination and pre-determine the routes well in advance. It is crucial to relocate your horses a sufficient distance from the coast, preferably north of Interstate 10 and ideally north of Alexandria. Aim to evacuate at least 72 hours before the anticipated storm arrival. Avoid the risk of being stuck in traffic with a trailer full of horses and a looming hurricane. Share your evacuation contact information with your neighbors.
- Prepare a waterproof emergency animal care kit with all the items you normally use, including medications, salves or ointments, vetwrap, bandages, tape, etc. Store the kit in a safe place where you can easily access it following a storm.
- Initiate early property cleanup to remove debris that could be tossed around by strong winds. Be careful of down power lines that can be “live” and pose a danger to people and animals.
Sheltering at Home
- The choice of keeping your horse in a barn or an open field is up to you. Use common sense, taking into consideration barn structure, trees, power lines, condition of surrounding properties and the likelihood of the property and structure to flood. Farms subject to storm surge or flash flooding should turn their horses out so horses are not trapped and drown.
- Remove all items from the barn aisle and walls and store them in a safe place.
- Have at least a two-to-three-week supply of hay (wrapped in plastic or waterproof tarp) and feed (stored in plastic water-tight containers, securing the container seams with duct tape). Place these supplies out of reach of flood waters in the highest and driest area possible.
- Fill clean plastic garbage cans with water, secure the tops, and place them in the barn for use after the storm.
- Place an emergency barn kit containing a chain saw and fuel, hammer(s), saw, nails, screws and fencing materials in a secure area before the storm hits so that it is easily accessible following the storm.
- Have an ample supply of flashlights and batteries and other non-perishable items.
Communications and Up to Date Information
- Listen to local radio stations in your area. If Internet access is available, access state-run websites that contain accurate status information (i.e., State Police, State University, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry) and take all cautions/warning serious and act accordingly.
- Visit the Louisiana State Animal Response Team website at lsart.org for more detailed information regarding horse hurricane preparations and other emergency and health-related information.
If your animals require emergency medical care after-hours, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive is available 24/7, 365 days a year. For pets and small exotics, call 225-578-9600, and for horses and farm animals, call 225-578-9500. While the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital typically remains open during hurricanes, please call first to be sure that the hospital is accessible, and we are able to accept patients following a disaster.
About LSU Vet Med: Bettering lives through education, public service, and discovery
The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 33 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. LSU Vet Med is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of animals and people through superior education, transformational research, and compassionate care. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.