Is your family prepared for a disaster? What about your livestock and other pets? Many of us have been affected by or involved in more catastrophes than we’d like over the years. In July of 2018, Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS) responded to the Perry Fire, which threatened houses, outbuildings, barns, families, and animals. In the week that followed the fire, WCRAS housed a total of 374 animals, including goats, llamas, horses, and household pets such as dogs, cats, caged critters, and even chickens!

What we discovered during the evacuation process was that most livestock were never trained to load into a trailer under normal circumstances, let alone during a high-stress situation. We also found that many people didn’t have a way to transport their livestock. Luckily, WCRAS was able to respond to assist with field staff and two horse trailers. Though WCRAS does routinely respond in the event of an emergency, it is essential that every owner has the ability to self-evacuate their animals. This requires practicing loading livestock into the trailer on a regular basis and keeping the vehicle and trailer in good condition. Don’t wait for an emergency to find out that you forgot the check the air in your tires!

Other things that would make evacuation or rescue easier is to ensure horses, donkeys, llamas, goats, and even pigs have the correct sized halter. Each of your animals should have a halter that has been properly fitted to them with their name or description on it. If the halter is hung on the stall or in a conspicuous location, it will be more likely that rescue personnel will be able to efficiently move your animal out of harms way in the event that you are not home.

Each animal should have a permanent form of identification such as a microchip. Emergency animal responders are equipped with a microchip reader. Make sure each animal’s microchip is registered with your current name, address, and phone number. Your animals should It is also important to keep your information current with the shelter in your area, if your animals are registered locally.

Other forms of livestock identification include tattoos, halter tag, neck collar, branding, ear tag, a luggage tag braided into the mane or tail, livestock marking crayon, or non-toxic and non-water-soluble spray paint or markers to write on the animal’s hide. You can also write your phone number on the hooves of your livestock with a permanent marker or paint. Any of these forms of identification will improve the odds of a safe return if your animal has to be evacuated.

Before disaster strikes, put together a Go Kit and keep it handy. A Go Kit should include the following:

Emergency ID Pack

In a waterproof bag, have your vaccination records and your veterinarian’s contact information. Include your current information (address, cell phone numbers, and next or kin or emergency contact numbers) along with the animal’s microchip numbers or brand inspection certificates, bills of sale, and any other proof of ownership documentation. Keep a list of how many animals you have, their species, and their locations. Pictures or a written description of each animals is extremely helpful. If your animals take medications, include a list of each medication for each animal, including the drug name, dosage, frequency, and pharmacy information.

Pet First Aid Kit

Instant ice packs, rubbing alcohol packets, hand-toe warmers, emergency foil blanket, Pedialyte, electrolyte powder, water or chicken broth, calming sprays or oils (mint, lavender, chamomile), Benadryl, treats, granola/protein bar/snacks for you, flour, cornstarch, liquid bandage, styptic pencil, assorted bandages, bandaids, vet wrap, rolled gauze, adhesive tape, extra leash, Gentle Leader, knee-high nylon, orphan socks, old shirt with your scent on it, blanket, towel, saline solution, peroxide, antibiotic ointment, anti-bacterial gel, wipes, or sprays, wound or fracture stabilizers (paper towel or toilet paper tubes, popsicle sticks, branches). If you include medications, check and rotate them periodically.

Other Useful Items

Three days of feed, hay, and packaged water, feed and water buckets, leash, halter, lead rope, leg wraps, bandana (to use as a blindfold), sharp all-purpose knife or wire cutters, shovel, paper towels, latex or garden gloves, trash bags, pen light, flashlight with batteries, safety light stick.

A radio is soothing, plus it can keep you updated on what is happening. For example, where temporary shelter locations have been set-up and for what types of animals, who to contact for assistance, what areas may be closed to traffic, where food and supplies may be available, and when there is an all clear to return home.

Your evacuation and emergency packs should be prepared in advance. Make it a family activity so all members of the household know what is in the kit. Designate someone to rotate items that have an expiration date.

Keep vehicles full of fuel and be sure you have a predetermined meeting place for family members. Choose an out of the area emergency contact person. The bottom line is to just be prepared. It’s human nature to say ‘“It will never happen to me,” but we all saw how fast the Paradise Fire in California destroyed homes and lives.


Story by Karen Stark (Program Coordinator, Washoe County Regional Animal Services) and Peggy Rew (WCRAS Volunteer Team). Photographs courtesy of Karen Stark.

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