As we have seen in footage covering the events following Hurricane Harvey and the unprecedented rain and flooding related thereto, it is extremely important for governments, animal-related business owners and animal owners to take all possible steps to plan for disasters that affect people and animals.
For livestock owners, that means planning to relocate herds and flocks. When flocks cannot be relocated, back up generators are required to provide electricity for proper maintenance of poultry housing. Dairy farmers may need government assistance to allow for, or assist, bulk tank pickups to continue. Local governments must include these facilities in their emergency planning to provide for the adequate care of these animals.
For zoos and aquariums that means planning for adequate temporary containers and caging for relocation, or adequate facilities to shelter in place. The specialized care required for these animals should be part of emergency planning.
For biomedical research facilities, planning must include the ability of trained personnel to return to the facilities to care for any animals that cannot be evacuated.
For companion animal owners, that means having suitable transport caging available, special medications and feed for the animal(s) with proof of vaccination, and permanent identification of the animals so they can be returned to the owner if separated during the disaster.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, and many other national and local veterinary and animal-related associations have been reporting on and providing assistance to those in need following Hurricane Harvey, and have reported, in part:
The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reports that the number of small animals in temporary shelters is fewer than anticipated. However, there are still several counties in southeast Texas that have not been assessed for animal needs because they are difficult to access. TAHC will begin coordination calls among partner animal shelters soon to better identify the number of pets being sheltered from the storm.
More than 6500 pets are being sheltered in temporary emergency shelters in Louisiana
Some organizations have worked together to create and update a map that assists in identifying available services (e.g., shelters, pet stores, veterinary services).
The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) deployed to the affected areas the day before Harvey hit and continues to assess and provide care for animals in need. This includes search and rescue dogs, pets, horses, cattle, and other livestock that are separated from their owners, as well as wildlife species in need. In addition to small animals, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital reports they have taken in 34 horses and 2 camels thus far.
Approximately 1.2 million cattle (about 27% of the state’s 4.46 million beef cow herd) are located in the 54 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately many ranchers, assisted by police, were able to herd their cattle to safer ground ahead of the hurricane.
The take home message for all is that disasters―natural or man-made―can happen at any time. If you own animals, it is important that you take the time to plan for these disasters, and hopefully, you will never have to implement those plans.
For those victims of Hurricane Harvey, we wish you, your families and animals a speedy recovery.