In 2004 on a trip to Columbia Mississippi there were many notices of assistance for people evacuating from hurricanes in Florida – places accepting dogs. When Katrina approached the community was one of hundreds who was in desperate need. It’s easy to say put the dogs, cats, family in the car and leave – but this doesn’t happen without a plan. And for those who have horses it’s compounded. Make plans now – and hope it is not needed. This is also JUST as relevant for any emergency evacuation – people in Kentucky found themselves having to evacuate when a train derailed. There are many reasons for immediate evacuation – and a key is being ready to go NOW.
Each pet should have a travel kit – use a 5X7 envelope sealed in a plastic ziplock bag placed into a toolbox available at many stores for about $30. You’re going to stock that tool box! Get one specific for the animals – label it and don’t use it for anything else. Get the following items: wound spray, aloe vet cream, needles and syringes, a couple rolls of vetrap, sterile cotton, linament (the gel stuff is wonderful!), electrolites. This is a minimum – if your animals have any medicines they need to take that will go in this toolbox-now-vet-box. In the envelopes place proof of vaccinations, copies of rabies tags, medical history, copies of registration papers if any, several snapshots…label each envelope with the pet’s name – you have a virtual “passport” with all information accessible. If horses make sure to have a copy of the current coggins test in here. Place it in the plastic bag and seal – this keeps it clean and dry. With horses especially you might want to have accessible a few doses of tranquilizer – with all of this together you literally have a medical box ready to grab and go. It doesn’t take up much room in the vehicle.
Make sure each pet has a carrier – put a clean towel or soft bedding in there and long before an emergency give them treats in the carrier so they learn it’s a safe place. This reduces stress at a time everyone will be stressed…it gives the animal something familiar and eliminates a cat yowling in distress from being locked up and dogs whining because they’re confined. Have room for everyone – and have collars on with identification tags and/or microchip on your pet. If the pets are in their carrier for the trip they are better protected in case of accident. If it’s a larger dog and you absolutely can’t place him in a crate get a folding crate to have with and keep it in the vehicle. Have a way to secure the pet inside the vehicle. It’s happened too many times an accident occurs, the pet gets out of the vehicle alive then disappears into traffic or rural areas. For horses – don’t forget ID! You can get a pet ID tag and secure with a ring on the halter but also do something visible. Get a livestock “crayon” – this leaves a temporary highly visible mark. On his neck, rump or side write your phone number, name or some identifying number that allows identification should it be needed. That crayon can also be used to mark dogs or cats on the belly – another form of identification.
Get a rubbermaid type container big enough to carry at least a week’s worth of food for each pet. This can be kept with your own food emergency kit. With these provisions you have at least a week – hopefully two – before you have to worry about basics. Equally have water available – if it means going and getting a 5 gallon can do it. With these in place you have means to take care of your pet and are ready to evacuate.
If you’re reading this you’re online. USE THAT! Research and have a place to land inland. The desperation of what to do isn’t nearly so bad if you have a half dozen options three hours away to call. Be it friends, hotels that allow pets (that’s why the crate is kept in the vehicle) or boarding – you have something in place. For horses research stables that will take horses temporarily if needed and have their numbers and contact info in the vet box. Keep vehicles fuelled up and serviced with good tires – including trailers. Look for your bailout place preferably within a tank of gas drive – but far enough to be safe. For most vehicles I’ve had this is 300-400 miles depending on the vehicle. When a hurricane approaches call your bail out contacts and put a tentative reservation in – this gives them a heads up and assures they have room – and if a final decision is made to evacuate you then know it takes a phone call and your animals have a safe place to be out of the storm, comfortable. With all of your medical information on hand it should meet the requirements boarding facilities have but it pays to double check their policies on the initial contact.
For larger animals such as horses make sure you have enough room to load and move each animal safely. If you have a three horse trailer and have five horses who gets left behind? If it means getting a less fancy but safe livestock type trailer do it – but always have enough room to load and go for each animal. If you have five head you may have to push the tack room to the basics you HAVE to take, grooming supplies and feed – bringing at least a week’s worth to allow transitioning feed at a new area that may not be the same.
Having a plan can save your animal’s life. It reduces the stress immensely when you have a plan. When a storm is forcast stage one goes in – vehicles should already be regularly maintained so fuel up, hook up trailers, pack feed and supplies in the vehicle or trailer. With any luck that practiced trial run is all that will be needed – but stage one is everything but putting them in. If an evacuation is in order you then have one thing to do – load and get out. Have a plan – have what you need on hand and ready to go.