Finding Housing for Horses During Evacuations

Don’t wait until disaster is on your doorstep to find a place to take your horses when evacuating. Remember these tips.
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Finding Housing for Horses During Evacuations
When it comes to maintaining your horses' safety, always be prepared to act on a moment's notice. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
We all hope natural disasters will never threaten our horses’ lives, but these unpredictable and often deadly events can occur anytime, anywhere. But thanks to modern meteorological technology coupled with televisions, computers, and smart phones, many weather emergencies are preceded by warnings to either seek shelter immediately (if a tornado is approaching, for instance) or to evacuate the area (in the event of a hurricane or wildfire, for example).

In the latter case, finding a place to ride out the weather in safety can be challenging. But that challenge is compounded for owners evacuating their horses from a storm’s path. Where do you drop a 1,100 pound animal to keep them safe from natural disasters? Here are some places you can look to find equine evacuation sites before the flood waters start rising.

 State and local animal health authorities This could be the department of agriculture, a livestock board, or an animal health commission on a state level, or local animal care and control authorities on a community level. Some states provide a list of equine evacuation sites on their websites. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for example, has a listing of regional equine shelters in that state. Likewise, the Santa Cruz County, California, Office of Emergency Management has a dedicated website for equine evacuation information, including phone numbers to call if you need help evacuating horses and disaster planning resources. If you can’t find a list on a department’s website, call the animal health authority and ask for assistance.

 

Local cooperative Extension agencies Check to see if your local cooperative Extension agency has information on where you can evacuate your horse to. For instance, the Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a document containing disaster preparation tips in addition to a selection of evacuation sites that accept horses. Not sure where the closest Extension office is? You can find an office at nifa.usda.gov/partners-and-extension-map.

Local equine associations and horse councils Some local equine associations, such as the Boulder County Horse Association, in Colorado, have listings of animal control resources and information regarding evacuation sites. Additionally, some organizations allow you to volunteer your farm or trailer to help in the event of a disaster and maintain a database, like Horse Council British Columbia, in Canada. If your local association or council doesn’t maintain a list of evacuation sites, they might be able to point you in the right direction of where else you could look.

Social media In today’s technologic world, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is becoming a valuable resource for getting and providing real-time information about natural disasters. Horse Evacuations East, for example, is simply designed to “connect people who need evacuation assistance and shelter for horses during a natural disaster to those who can provide it.” It’s each horse owner’s responsibility to research the offerings on the page, but this tool can be valuable for making connections with local equestrians you might be able to help, or who might be able to help you.

Local emergency management agencies Your local emergency management authority is tasked with doing just what its name implies: managing emergencies. Thus, they likely have knowledge about evacuation sites for all kinds of situations, including evacuating horses. Contact your local agency with questions regarding equine evacuations.

When it comes to maintaining your horse’s safety, always be prepared to act on a moment’s notice. This means finding an equine evacuation site before a disaster threatens. Work with local agencies, associations, and horse people to devise your equine evacuation plan ahead of time.

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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