Christine Navarre, Merrill, Thomas A., Sasser, Diane
If you have pets or livestock, your family’s disaster plans need to include what you’ll do with them.
"Don’t wait until a storm, flood or other disaster threatens to think about what you will do with pets or livestock," says LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre. "Make plans early, so you can put those plans into play the minute a potential disaster threatens.
"You don’t want to wait until the last minute, because your options will be even more limited then."
The basic options to consider are whether you’ll try to take pets with you or evacuate some or all of your livestock – or whether you’ll leave them at home and try to provide as much protection as possible.
"You probably have more options with smaller pets," Navarre says. "You generally can bring them into a safe are of the house and keep them with you during a storm if you’re staying at home.
"If you’re evacuating, some motels and hotels will allow pets. You also may find friends or relatives who would allow you to bring your pets. But keep in mind that most shelters don’t allow pets – although the state is working on plans for special pet shelters."
Navarre and LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Diane Sasser say exploring your options early are the keys to success.
"Pets are valuable members of the family to many people, and livestock can be valuable assets to the family’s livelihood," Sasser says. "Knowing what you’ll do with them helps you to set the plans in motion at the right time."
Whether staying at home or evacuating, your pets or your livestock will need food and water. You’ll also want to have them tagged with identifying information – such as collars, brands, tags or microchips – that can help you to be reunited if separated from them.
"Barns, fences and even homes can be damaged in disasters, so your pets may escape from the place where you left them, and there are all sorts of similar possibilities when you take pets on the road with you," Navarre says.
Suitable pet carriers, leashes, halters, ropes, livestock trailers and a variety of other supplies also are necessities if you plan to evacuate pets or livestock.
"Think about what you will need for your animals, and try to have it all on hand," Navarre says.
Although it may be impossible to evacuate all animals if you must leave, the experts say to provide the animals with as much protection as possible if they are left behind. In those cases, pets and livestock require somewhat different treatment.
"We recommend turning livestock loose in the fields rather than leaving them in a barn, but pets turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water or accidents," Navarre says. "You also don’t want to leave dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster since that basically is a death sentence.
"Livestock also should be free to move to the safest possible ground," she says, adding, "Just make your plans to keep them as safe as you can."
The LSU AgCenter experts also offer these tips:
–Evacuating livestock is a time-consuming and difficult process. Consider how much of your herd you may reasonably be able to move to a safer location and how long that may take.
–If you will have to leave your pets or livestock at home, think of how they will be protected from floodwater and the elements and how they will be fed during your absence. Keep in mind that leaving pets or livestock behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, still could result in them being injured, lost or killed.
–Remember, food and water are critical to the survival of animals left behind, those taken with you or those left in other shelters.
–In addition to other means of identification, take a picture of yourself and your pet together for future identification. Keep the picture in a safe place with your other important papers.
–Don’t forget there will be additional hazards for pets and livestock after a storm. Some plant materials blown down in a storm can be poisonous to animals.
For more information on caring for pets and livestock in an emergency, visit www.lsuagcenter.com and click the disaster-related links to publications and fact sheets listed under "features" on that page.