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Caring for Livestock & Other Large Animals

Published on: 2/13/2013 4:18 PM

Why Plan for Animal Issues During a Disaster?

From 1993-1998, there were at least nine major disasters in the State of California, including three major floods, three fires, two winter storms, and one major earthquake.  Recent disasters and follow-up research have shown that proper preparation and effective coordination of animal issues enhances the ability of emergency personnel to protect both human and animal health and safety.  It is much more efficient, effective, and inexpensive to develop plans to address animal issues prior to an incident than during one.


Plan Ahead - Determine the best place for animal confinement in case of a disaster.  Find alternative water sources in case power is lost and pumps are not working, or have a hand pump installed.  You should have a minimum of three days feed and water on hand.

Identification - This is critical!  Photograph, identify , and inventory your animals.  Permanent identification such as brands, tattoos, eartags, or microchips are best.  Temporary identification, such as tags on halters, livestock markers, paint, and duct tape with permanent writing will also work.  Include your name and phone number.  Keep identification information with you to verify ownership.
Medical Records and Vaccinations - Your animals need to have current vaccinations.  Keep medical histories and record special dosing instructions and dietary requirements.  Write down contact information for your veterinarian.

Vehicles - Keep trailers and vans well-maintained, full of gas, and ready to move at all times.  Be sure your animals will load.  If you don't have your own vehicles, make arrangements with local haulers or neighbors before disaster strikes.
Fire Preparation - In high risk areas, clear fire breaks around your house, barns, and property lines.  Keep fire fighting tools in one location.
Flood Preparation - Identify available high ground on your property or other nearby evacuation sites.  Be familiar with road availability during flood conditions.
Listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the TV or radio
Evacuate your livestock and other large animals early, if possible, to ensure their safety and ease your stress.
Take all vaccination and medical records, the Disaster Preparedness Kit, and enough hay, feed, and water for three days.
Call your destination to make sure space is still available.
If you must leave your animals, leave them in the preselected area appropriate for the disaster type.  Leave enough hay for 48 to 72 hours.  Do not rely on automatic watering systems.  Power may be lost.
The leading causes of death in large animals during disaster are:
  • Collapsed barns
  • Kidney failure due to dehydration
  • Electrocution from downed power lines
  • Fencing failures

Check pastures and fences for sharp objects that could injure livestock.  Be aware of downed power lines, fallen trees, and debris.  Beware of local wildlife, including raccoons and skunks, that may have entered the area and could pose a threat to your animals.
Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and animals can easily become confused and lost.
If you find someone else's animal, call the County Office of Emergency Services or any emergency phone numbers set up after the disaster.  Isolate it from your animals until it is returned to its owner or can be examined by a veterinarian.  Always use caution when approaching and handling strange or frightened horses or livestock.
If you've lost an animal, contact veterinarians, humane societies, stables, surrounding farms, and other facilities.  Listen to the EAS for groups that may be accepting lost animals.
Check with your veterinarian and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Animal Health Branch for information about possible disease outbreaks.
Practice Your Plan!
(Attribution:  State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, Animal Health Branch)
For More Information Please Contact:
Office of Emergency Services
55 W. Younger Avenue
Suite 450
San Jose, CA 95110
Fax: 408-294-4851
Phone: 408-808-7800