Evacuation Route

This is a clarion call for every equine owner, manager, caretaker, veterinarian/scientist, or other equine stakeholder with the desire to maintain and improve the welfare of the horse and the quality of life of the equine industry stakeholders before, during, and after disaster events.

Water, food, fuel, shelter, medical care—how will you access these vital needs for survival for you, your horse(s), and other family/team members, pets, and livestock if faced with a disaster event like those that affected millions last year along our coasts, in our heartland, and in cities, towns, and villages all over the U.S. and in other countries?

What is your plan when water is rising or fire is racing so fast around your farm or stable that you cannot get your horses out? What is your plan if you and your horses are involved in a vehicular accident during transport or if you are required to “stop-movement” due to a disease outbreak? With the multitude of maladies that can and will occur to us and our animals in our lifetime, can you answer “yes” to the question, “Have we done ‘due diligence’ with developing a functional all-hazards disaster plan to protect us and the animals that make up such a significant part of our lives?”

In an age of increasing exposure to extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change along with human and animal population expansion, it is not a matter of if, but when will it happen to each and every one of us in some capacity. It is time for us as equine stakeholders to wake up and heed the call over 13 years (or longer) in the making, to take responsibility for our own lives and the horses that mean so much to us, our families, our economy, our country, and our world.

Since 2005, post-hurricanes Katrina and Rita, animal issues have become a real part of the discussion regarding emergency planning in communities, especially pet animals since saving animal lives saves human lives. People are more apt to evacuate out of harm’s way if there are provisions for their animals.

Many areas of our country have made major progress and have made it a priority and routine to be proactive with planning in areas prone to repeated disasters (e.g. coastal Florida, parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, Texas, California, and others). However, it is clear that complacency and lack of situational awareness related to individual risk still seems to be the norm at the local community level. Although there are numerous stories of heroes, lives saved, positive outcomes in recent and past disasters, the losses continue to mount. Many of these losses are repeats of the same mistakes happening again and again. Will it really take a disaster such as Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Maria, or major wildfire for folks to realize that responsible horse owners must have a functional disaster plan?

Let’s take 2017 as the real wake-up call and apply our passion for these majestic animals to make 2018 and our future stronger, brighter, and better for the horse and the people who share this common bond.

Let’s make coordinated, concerted efforts in our own communities to strengthen our home, farm, ranch, business, and community disaster plans. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the numerous resources that are available to assist with local community disaster planning. The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and state Ag Extension services and community response teams are good places to start:

Contact—Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM (LA)—rmcconn@latech.edu—318/257-2418—Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.