Preparing for the Storm
With hurricane season upon us for 6 months out of the year, it is important for horse owners to know what to do in the event of an impending storm. The most important step is having a plan in place and making sure that everyone understands their own job to ensure that all aspects run as smoothly as possible.
Before the Storm
It would be wise to have multiple forms of identification on your horse in case one or more are damaged or lost. Fetlock ID bands can be purchased at an on-line tack store and should be placed on the horse’s front legs. Additionally a halter tag with the horse’s name along with owner and veterinarian contact information should be attached to a leather or break-away halter. Water proof luggage tags can be braided into your horse’s tail and special markers (also can be purchased online) can be used to write identification information directly on your horses.
Health and Paperwork:
Make sure your horses are up to date on their vaccines – all should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year. Also due to increases in mosquito populations following heavy rainfall, all horses should be vaccinated against Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
A negative coggins test is required for admittance to a shelter or the crossing of state lines – make sure your horse’s coggins is up to date.
If you know you will be evacuating and crossing state lines, your horse will also need a health certificate dated within the previous 30 days.
Have a separate file to keep with you that contains all of your horse’s information (name, age, breed, sex, color, registration information, coggin’s test, pictures with distinguishing features, microchip number, etc). Keep this file in a safe place (off site, if possible) so it won’t be damaged.
Where do I put them?
While you may be tempted to keep your horses in their stalls during the storm (after all, you wouldn’t want to be outside), this may not be the best course of action. One of the leading causes of death of large animals during hurricane Andrew in 1992 was being trapped in a barn which collapsed. If you have a barn which is specifically designed to withstand hurricane force winds then keeping your horse indoors may be ok, otherwise letting them out in a wide open pasture would be the best option.
It is vital to have an adequate supply of feed and water. Keep a minimum of 72 hours worth of hay and feed (the more, the better) and 12-20 gallons of water per horse per day. Hay should be covered with tarps and kept off the ground. If possible, store feed in water tight containers.
Water can be stored in garbage cans with plastic liners and fill all water troughs. Be sure to have chlorine bleach on hand to treat contaminated water – to purify water, add 2 drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.
Secure all movable objects that could become projectiles – lawn furniture, jumps etc. Keep large vehicles/trailers/tractors in an open area where trees cannot fall on them.
Turn off electrical power to your barn.
Have an emergency/first aid kit for your horses – flying debris can cause lacerations and other traumatic injuries. Be sure to have the following items: bandages (wraps and quilts), antiseptics, scissors/knife, topical antiseptic ointments (Nolvasan®), pain relievers (Bute or Banamine®), flashlight with extra batteries, extra halter and lead rope, clean towels and plenty of fly spray.
After the Storm
Following the storm, make sure to assess your barn and surrounding property for any damage. Walk your pastures – remove any debris, note down power lines, take pictures of any storm damage. Carefully inspect each horse for injuries, with special attention to their eyes and limbs. If your horse is missing, contact local animal control with your identification information.
Every county in Florida has an Emergency Support Function officer who oversees animal emergencies. These ESF officers report to the Emergency Command Officer for their county who then reports to the state veterinarian. The state veterinarian can, under severe conditions, activate the federal veterinary rescue team VMAT (www.avma.org/disaster/vmat).