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PO Box 858 Firestone, CO 80520

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by Merrie Garner

horses need care during an emergency just like pets

Most animal owners consider their pets to be family members‭. ‬During and after an emergency or disaster‭, ‬the conditions that affect you will also affect your pets‭. ‬So‭, ‬what is good for you is usually also what is best for your animals‭. ‬While many Carbon Valley residents opt for dog and cat companions‭, ‬some prefer small animals‭, ‬such as hamsters‭, ‬or exotic pets‭, ‬such as reptiles‭. ‬The‭ ‬information provided below applies to all pets‭, ‬but additional resources for more specific information are included at the conclusion of the article‭.‬

Planning for animals in a disaster

Include your pets in your evacuation and shelter-in-place plans‭. ‬If you need to evacuate‭, ‬try to take your pets with you‭. ‬It helps to familiarize your pets with being transported in a crate or other transportation arrangements ahead of time‭. ‬

Be sure to assemble disaster supplies for your pet‭, ‬as you would for yourself‭. ‬Include a few days’‭ ‬worth of food‭, ‬water‭, ‬medication‭, ‬records‭, ‬an extra leash and/or harness‭, ‬litter box or pet waste disposal supplies‭, ‬and grooming items in case your pet needs to be cleaned up‭. ‬It may also be useful to write down information with your pet’s name and behavior patterns‭, ‬issues‭, ‬or needs if you need to leave him or her with someone else after a disaster‭.  ‬

If possible‭, ‬identify shelter arrangements before an emergency‭. ‬Sometimes if an emergency shelter opens for the public‭, ‬there is‭ ‬a co-located animal shelter‭. ‬However‭, ‬if this option is not available‭, ‬know where you can take your pets‭; ‬talk to friends and family members‭, ‬and learn whether shelters‭, ‬kennels‭, ‬or veterinarians could take care of your pets during an emergency‭. ‬A trusted‭ ‬relative‭, ‬friend‭, ‬or neighbor may be able to care for your pet if you are away from home during an emergency‭. ‬Show them how to‭ ‬care for your pet ahead of time‭. ‬Keep your pet(s‭)‬’‭ ‬vaccinations current and keep the records in your‭ ‬“go kit”‭ (‬items you should have ready in case you need to evacuate quickly‭). ‬Most veterinarians and boarding facilities require proof of‭ ‬vaccinations to admit your pet‭.‬

Sometimes pets get separated from their family during a disaster‭. ‬Be prepared for this by taking and printing pictures of your pet with you and your family‭. ‬After a large disaster‭, ‬local and volunteer agencies often help with reuniting pets with their families‭. ‬Good pictures can help to ensure you find each other and provide proof of ownership‭. ‬Also‭, ‬make sure your pet has identification and is micro-chipped‭. ‬

About service animals in a public shelter

The Americans with Disabilities Act‭ (‬ADA‭) ‬guarantees service animals‭, ‬currently defined as a dog‭ (‬with a specific provision that‭ ‬also covers a miniature horse‭) ‬that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability‭, ‬may remain with their owners in any public accommodation‭, ‬such as a shelter set up during a disaster‭. ‬The ADA does not ensure other aspects of caring for service animals during disasters‭. ‬If you own a service animal‭, ‬prepare to provide food and water during an emergency when the animal is going to stay with you‭. ‬

An emotional support‭, ‬comfort‭, ‬or therapy animal is not considered a service animal under the ADA‭. ‬These animals can provide companionship‭, ‬ease loneliness‭, ‬and help with depression‭, ‬anxiety‭, ‬and other symptoms of mental illness‭. ‬While these supports are important‭, ‬these animals do not receive special training to perform these tasks‭, ‬and therefore may not be allowed at a public emergency shelter‭. ‬For people who rely on these animals‭, ‬it is best to arrange to shelter with friends or family outside the area and evacuate as early as possible before the consequences of the disaster happen‭. ‬

Caring for livestock in a disaster

While many of our subdivisions in the Carbon Valley only allow chickens or possibly a pig as pets‭, ‬we are still a partly rural community‭. ‬Many people may also keep non-commercial livestock at their homes‭, ‬including horses‭, ‬donkeys‭, ‬goats‭, ‬llamas‭, ‬alpacas‭, ‬sheep‭, ‬and poultry‭. ‬We want to keep all our animals safe during and after a disaster‭. ‬

Always keep a two-week supply of feed on hand‭, ‬especially during the winter‭, ‬and plan for an alternate source for watering livestock‭, ‬such as a cistern or large holding tank‭, ‬or a generator that can run a well when power or water is disrupted‭. ‬Many automatic watering systems will not run without electricity‭. ‬

A plan to evacuate and shelter your large and small livestock is essential in protecting both people and animals‭. ‬Local and state emergency planners will identify shelter for large animals during an emergency and communicate this information as it is available‭. ‬Often‭, ‬the county fairgrounds are used for this purpose‭, ‬but they may not have adequate room or are inaccessible from your‭ ‬location during a disaster‭. ‬If you can‭, ‬make other arrangements in advance‭.‬

If you have horses or other livestock that you plan to transport in trailers‭, ‬teach them to load ahead of time‭. ‬You should also‭ ‬determine evacuation destinations and ensure the facilities have access to food‭, ‬water‭, ‬veterinary care‭, ‬and handling equipment‭.‬‭ ‬You might want to work out a way to share resources with your neighbors during an emergency‭. ‬Make sure you have adequate equipment‭, ‬such as halters‭, ‬for each of your animals‭.‬

Like with our household pets‭, ‬having livestock identification‭, ‬such as photographs‭, ‬brand inspection‭, ‬registration papers‭, ‬and microchip numbers‭, ‬is the best way to ensure you are reunited with your animals should you be separated from them‭. ‬Keep copies of‭ ‬these documents with someone outside the area or electronically on cloud-based or portable storage devices‭. ‬

If you are not at home and someone else must evacuate your animals‭, ‬post the number and types of animals in your barn area‭. (‬It‭ ‬is imperative to keep this information up to date‭!) ‬Include the location of your animal disaster supplies and your emergency contact information‭. ‬

If evacuation is not possible‭, ‬you may have to decide whether to shelter your animals or turn them out‭. ‬This decision will always be based on the type of disaster‭, ‬the availability and location of shelter‭, ‬and the risks associated with turning your animals‭ ‬out or leaving them where they are‭. ‬

Be sure to practice good fire safety by keeping a fire extinguisher in your barn area and providing for fire mitigation and defensible space in and around corrals‭, ‬pastures‭, ‬and outbuildings‭. ‬Finally‭, ‬you can learn about biosecurity and adopt practices that prevent the introduction or spread of disease amongst livestock‭. ‬For more information‭, ‬visit www.colorado.gov/aganimals‭. ‬

Wildlife in Disasters

Living in Colorado often goes together with a love of the outdoors and respect for wildlife that shares our living environment‭. ‬Disaster can intensify the unpredictable nature of wild animals‭. ‬To protect yourself‭, ‬exercise caution around wild animals‭. ‬

Some wild animals‭, ‬like snakes‭, ‬raccoons‭, ‬and opossums‭, ‬have been known to seek refuge in homes or barns during a disaster and remain there after the threat is gone‭. ‬This behavior is particularly common in floods‭. ‬If this happens‭, ‬try to open an escape route‭, ‬and the animal will probably leave on its own‭. ‬Also‭, ‬be sure to secure food supplies in animal-resistant containers to keep‭ ‬displaced vermin out after a disaster‭.‬

If you see an injured or stranded animal‭, ‬contact the local animal control agency through Weld County Communications at‭ (‬970‭) ‬350-9600‭ ‬or the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Denver headquarters at‭ (‬303‭) ‬297-1192‭ ‬for additional assistance‭.   ‬

Planning now for your animals in a disaster or large-scale emergency will reduce your stress and worry when you need to make quick decisions‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬your pets and animals rely on you every day and will depend even more on you for their safety and well-being when conditions are dangerous or difficult‭. ‬Preparing ahead of time is the best way to make sure your whole family will be‭ ‬ready and resilient when disaster strikes‭. ‬For further information‭, ‬visit‭ ‬The Humane Society of the United States‭, ‬Ready.gov‭, ‬and‭ ‬The Colorado Department of Agriculture‭. ‬

Merrie was hired in 2019‭ ‬as the first Carbon Valley Emergency Management Coordinator to establish the Carbon Valley Emergency Management Agency‭. ‬Merrie is a fourth-generation Colorado native with 14‭ ‬years of emergency management experience‭. ‬She has been a resident of Frederick since 2006‭, ‬and is thrilled to be working in the community she calls home‭.‬