Living in areas prone to natural disasters can be tough, and if you have pets or livestock, it can get complicated in a hurry. Just ask anyone who lives in a region surrounded by thick forests or even in the Southern U.S., where hurricanes are a near-constant threat from late spring to the first week of December. Even floods from heavy rains can have devastating effects.
If you have to make a run for it, what do you do with your furry, fuzzy, or feathered friends? If they’re small enough, you obviously take them with you. But what if you have goats, chickens, horses, donkeys, etc.? Do you have a plan in place for their evacuation?
And even if it’s domestic pets, do you have an emergency preparedness plan in place and the items you’ll need for their comfort and support? Food, medications, leashes, harnesses, bedding, bowls, and toys should all be on your list for evacuation kits. You’ll also want to bring any health certificates or proof of vaccinations, as many shelters will require them before accepting pets.
One vet in British Columbia shared her views on what animal owners should be thinking about when it comes to pulling out of Dodge in a hurry if a crisis arises.
“We did a bit of an education program after the ’03 fires that if you have animals, you need to evacuate on your evacuation alert and don’t wait ’til an order,” Dr. Gail Jewell, a holistic veterinarian and equine chiropractor, stated. “That’s a really hard message to get through because, of course, everybody wants to stay home and look after their own.
“It’s kind of a broken record, but we’re really trying to encourage people — especially if they have more animals than they have the ability to transport — to evacuate on alert.”
Jewell, who runs Heartland Bluff Dog Vacations, a seven-acre farm in Kelowna, B.C., has taken in goats and sheep during past fires, but at the moment, the facility just has dogs seeking refuge from the smoke and flames currently plaguing the region.
As she sees it, she’s merely one cog in a “spoked wheel of hundreds of volunteers,” with most at the lower rungs taking in only a pet or two since the wildfires began.
“You need to have more than one option, like three options,” she explained.
For her part, she has two horses of her own and is currently away from the danger.
“But some places that I was going to evacuate to are under alert or were under alert,” she lamented. “They’re not anymore, but I had to scramble and come up with a third option if I happen to get evacuated. So, it’s really important that you have more than one option.” The point is to plan ahead.
And equines are one of her major concerns. Fortunately, folks have been stepping up to bring horses hay and pick up feed for them in B.C.
“With dogs, it’s kind of hit-and-miss. We haven’t got anything coordinated in town, but a lot of people have taken one or two dogs into their homes.”
Since the destruction seen with the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Fire, Jewell hopes history won’t repeat itself, but it seems to be a pattern of human nature to let our guards down after a reprieve of any real length.
“People are going to get all prepared again, right? But then they get complacent after a year or two. There won’t be a halter for every horse you’re trying to evacuate. There are no names on their halters, no quick way of identifying them. That’s always a problem.
“And most livestock owners don’t have the capability to load and go right away. A lot of them don’t have a stock trailer or anything like that. A lot of horse owners have six horses with a two-horse trailer.”
She also noted that in her experience, roughly only a third of dog owners have an ID tag and phone number on their pets. She pointed to one Kelowna kennel housing 60 canines with no evacuation plan in place when the evacuation order came in.
“They were just handing dogs out the door to whomever would come by and take them.”
The long and the short of it is, whether you’re an individual or a facility, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare, or nobody might get out alive, and never, ever stay to “protect your property” during wildfires because you’ll lose every time.Whizzco