Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

Plan for pets during emergencies

September 15, 2005

With the coming and going of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, such an awful tragedy has befallen both mankind and animal. It is a monumental task just to pick up the pieces and go on to rebuild. Our hearts and donations go out to the survivors and their families, as we hope they can get on with their lives.

But what about the animals who are caught in the wake of the storm? Who will come to their needs? I don't admit to placing greater value on their needs and rescue over a human being, as we need to prioritize here. But many pets apparently have been left behind as the residents were given mandatory evacuation orders. How can we help them as well as how can we as pet owners or animal husbandry men or live stockers prepare for a disaster?

A couple of years ago, our household suddenly found itself smack dab in the middle of an environmental danger -- a tornado was headed for a direct hit on the house.

I happened to be playing in a golf tournament to benefit the city of De Soto that Sunday afternoon, April 5, 2003. My wife and two boys were sitting on the front porch watching the storm approaching. Soon they realized it was a tornado. With seconds to spare, they hurried to the basement only to realize we had a puppy in a crate in one of the kids' bedrooms on the second floor. Believe it or not, my wife shouted to our oldest son, Joel, to run up and get the puppy. He successfully saved the puppy although our house was by and large unscathed. Later we joked about the rescue as we examined the sheet rock nails that had popped out of the walls of the bedroom the puppy was in.

Obviously, in the advent of a tornado, time is of the essence and value and judgments should be made quickly. But we all can sit down and designate a family member to a pet, as the rescuer and caretaker of the pet in the event something does happen.

Plastic airline-type kennels should be stored in the basement to place pets in for maximum safety. A supply of their food and some drinking water should also be stowed away, especially in the event of prolonged stays in the basement or home, as in a blizzard situation.

Getting back to the hurricane example, if one lives in a hurricane's potential path, a plan for the pet's safekeeping should be made and reviewed occasionally. Basic needs as in food and water or essential medications should be accessible for quick pick up and storage. Minor first aid kits are also great to have in case of injury.

Emergency phone numbers of the local veterinarian, animal control, humane societies and emergency clinics should be accessible in your preparedness kit. One needs to just think ahead, prioritizing needs in case you have to leave the home.

In the case of livestock, it gets a little trickier. Proper shelter and available food are the utmost in needs.

Tornadoes and hurricanes can be devastating to livestock herds. Little can be done at the last minute, but if advanced warning is given, appropriate measures can be taken to reassure their health and well being. Adequate cover, as in barns or even wooded areas is an important consideration.

Leaving out extra large round bales of hay is a good measure of husbandry to ensure nutrition is available to stock. In the case of a blizzard, these measures can save your shirt and herd against loss of animals because of exposure.

When the tornado hit, our neighbor's herd of cattle went unscathed as they had access to the safety of a draw or ditch. Instinctively, they moved to the draw to wait on the storm. As we were patching our roof after the storm, I watched in wonder as the bull led the group of cows out of the draw to higher ground.

I have just recently learned via a client, pets were excluded from the rescue missions in the gulf coast region. This is understandable but disheartening. Obviously, when you are talking about being air lifted or boated out of the damaged area, extra pounds matter. Again, adequate shelter, food and water need to be left for a pet if it is to be temporarily abandoned.

In short, disasters affect not only humans, but equally, animals' lives too. We should sit down with our families and draw up a brief and concise plan to safeguard our pets and livestock.

After the storm has passed, we can hopefully resume our lives with our pets intact, as truly our pets will help our recovery if possession and/or lives are lost.

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