June in Louisiana means two things – the first of four months of sweltering summer heat and the beginning of hurricane season for southern parishes, according to Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom.
“As Tropical Storm Arlene approaches the Gulf Coast, it’s imperative that we prepare for what is predicted to be an active hurricane season,” Odom said. “For livestock and pet owners, planning ahead should be the number one priority.”
Department of Agriculture and Forestry State Veterinarian Maxwell Lea and Assistant State Veterinarian Martha Littlefield have several recommendations for pet and livestock owners who might have to evacuate during the threat of a tropical storm or hurricane.
“There are three things that are key to an organized evacuation for both pet and livestock owners. The first thing is to have an established plan before a storm ever forms in the gulf,” Lea said. “Second, don’t wait until the last minute to leave or evacuate. And third, make sure your pets and livestock have proper identification – preferably something permanent like a microchip, tattoo or brand.”
For cattle and horse owners, a hurricane or storm plan should begin with selecting the place on their property that is least likely to flood where livestock can quickly and easily be moved when a hurricane threatens the area.
Some owners may choose to trailer their expensive or genetically superior breeding stock and bring the animals with them during an evacuation. “The big, big thing when taking the animals with you is to make arrangements ahead of time and know where you are going with those animals,” Lea said. “You can’t show up just anywhere with a trailer full of horses or cows.”
It’s important for livestock owners who plan to evacuate with a trailer of animals to leave as early as possible. During hurricane evacuations it is not unusual for the State Police to close routes to trailer and towing traffic.
He also said now is the time to make sure livestock trailers are in good condition and ready for an unexpected road trip. Check the tire pressure and the rubber for wear, test brake and running lights, and inspect the overall condition and functioning of the trailer.
Important items to take along during an evacuation: health records, especially proof of EIA testing for horses; food; special medications; and bridles or leads.
Even for livestock that are evacuated, proper identification is crucial during a natural disaster.
Livestock owners who run into problems with their preparations can call their local Office of Emergency Preparedness for assistance. These local OEP offices have a network of veterinarian and other trained professionals ready to help livestock and pet owners, Lea said.
Many of the same principles apply when preparing for the care of domestic pets during a hurricane, Littlefield said.
“Planning in advance is essential,” she said. “Almost all shelters for evacuees do not allow pets. Owners need to make arrangements with a boarding facility at the first sign of trouble in the Gulf so they have a place to take their pet. If you are going to evacuate and take your pet with you, make sure you have a hotel reservation somewhere that allows pets or that you have a relative living in an unthreatened area who will welcome you and your pet.”
The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association will have some shelters along the evacuation routes ready for pets, Littlefield said.
There are some important things to bring when evacuating with a pet.
“Dogs and cats need to have proof of annual Rabies and other vaccinations. Although many vaccinations are not required like Rabies, most facilities will not welcome pets without them. It’s also very important to have collars, leashes, harnesses and kennels for confining animals when necessary,” Littlefield said. “For animals who are apprehensive in unfamiliar settings, a muzzle might be appropriate as well.”
At least a three-day supply of food, water and medications should be at the top of the list for pet owners.
Exotic pets, like snakes and lizards, should be contained at all times and owners need to bring extension cords for plugging in heat rocks and lamps.
“As with livestock, identification is the most important thing a pet owner should remember when planning for a hurricane. Even though no one wants to think about being separated from their pet, it can and does happen during natural disasters,” Littlefield said. “When an animal shelter or veterinarian has 10 or 12 lost golden retrievers show up after a storm, it can be very hard to tell them apart. A microchip comes in handy to ID these animals and return them to their owner.”
She also suggested taking digital or film pictures of any identifying marks on the pet in order to prove ownership. Again, shelters and veterinarians don’t want to send an animal home with the wrong owner or someone trying to take advantage of the situation, Littlefield said.
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