Don’t forget to include animals in your storm plans

Christine Navarre, Merrill, Thomas A., Sasser, Diane  |  6/9/2009 1:11:14 AM

News Release Distributed 06/08/09

Your plans for a storm or other disaster need to include what you’ll do about any pets and livestock you own, as well as all the other measures to protect your family and property.

“If you have pets or livestock, what you’ll do with them definitely must be in your family’s disaster plans,” says LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre. “Don’t wait until a storm, flood or other disaster threatens to think about what you will do with pets or livestock.”

Navarre says to make your 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,” she cautions.

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 area of the house and keep them with you during a storm if you’re staying at home.”

Even if you are evacuating, some motels and hotels will allow smaller pets, experts say.

“You also may find friends or relatives who would allow you to bring your pets,” says LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Diane Sasser. ”But keep in mind that many shelters don’t allow pets.”

As a result of lessons learned from hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the state has developed plans for pet shelters located near the shelters for those with critical transportation needs, the experts point out.

“People evacuating with their own transportation can contact the Louisiana State Animal Response Team ( to find out about other shelters for dogs and cats,” Navarre says, adding, “Pet shelter information also is usually posted at Red Cross stations.”

There are no state-run shelters for livestock, including horses, according to officials.

Both Sasser and Navarre stress exploring your options early is the key 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 all the time – or at least well ahead of any potential storm,” Navarre says.

Although it may be impossible to evacuate all animals if you must leave, the experts say you should 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 or help with a variety of other topics, visit Check the Hazards and Threats section listed under Family and Home for useful information about preparing for or recovering after storms, floods and other disasters.


Christine Navarre
Diane Sasser
Tom Merrill

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