Tuesdays with Tony
We’re already in hurricane season, can you believe it? Somehow, it’s already six days into June. Every year I like to remind you all how to best be prepared in case a hurricane heads this way. I’ll leave the preparations for the human side of things to those experts, but let’s talk about having a plan in place for your horses and other furry creatures.
First and Foremost: Paperwork
Everyone hates paperwork, but I can’t tell you how important it is that you have your horse’s, dog’s, cat’s and other farm animals’ paperwork up to date and in a safe, easily located spot. Often, if a state of emergency is put into place, the requirements to get out of the state of Florida are lifted to allow for faster evacuation. This is all well and good because they won’t be checking for Coggins, health certificates, rabies certificates, etc.
But how do you plan to get back into the state once the SOE is lifted? Right, you’ll need all that paperwork. So, do yourself a favor now and get your horse’s Coggins up to date. It will save you a ton of money, heartache and hassle should you need them urgently. Once a Coggins test is pulled, it usually takes at least a week for us to get the results back. If you wait until it’s time to evacuate, you won’t have a current Coggins, and the lab will probably be shut down for the storm. Coggins are good for an entire year from the date they are pulled, so if you get it now, you’ll be good long past the end of hurricane season.
It’s not just the State of Florida. Most evacuation facilities will not allow horses to stay there without a current Coggins and current vaccinations, including rabies, flu, and rhino. You’ll want your horse’s encephalitis and West Nile vaccines up to date as well, and these are not yearly vaccines, they’re every six months. With hurricanes comes rain, with rain come standing water, and with standing water comes mosquitoes. Trust this old cat, you don’t want your horse to get encephalitis or West Nile.
Now that you have all that paperwork updated, have your vet print you out a history of everything that’s been done, and put it somewhere safe and dry. It doesn’t hurt to put a copy inside your trailer, and another copy in your house or barn. Cell phones and email don’t always work during storms, so a paper copy is the way to go. Similarly, get your dogs and cats up to date on their vaccinations because shelters and boarding facilities will not take them without it.
Location, Location, Location
Speaking of shelters and boarding facilities, plan ahead. Have a shelter and boarding facility in mind and make sure they allow all the animals. Find out what kind of documentation they will need for your animals and talk to your veterinarian about the best time to get it. Many human shelters do not allow animals, so it’s essential to have a plan for where your furry friends will go if you end up having to go into a shelter. Boarding facilities fill up fast, so you’re better off reserving a space before a storm is imminent and not needing it than having nowhere to go with your fur-kids. We don’t like to think about having to leave our homes and our safe spaces, but sometimes we’re left with no choice. Having to leave is tough; having to leave without a place to go is downright scary.
Coming from a cat who is a food hound, make sure you have plenty of everyone’s food on hand. At least seven days’ worth, but honestly, with how difficult it has been to get things recently, you might want to consider having two weeks’ worth of food. Even if you’re staying home and riding it out, having extra food is a solid plan. Just ask the folks over in the Florida panhandle last year how long it took for their feed stores to open back up. Just make sure you rotate your feed and don’t keep the same bags for a long time. It definitely has a shelf life!
It can be hard to travel with a lot of hay if you don’t have a tractor-trailer and, well, a lot of hay. Still, I advise you to take all the hay you can safely carry. And ‘safely’ means that it can’t fall on your horse(s), even if you slam on the brakes, and you can keep it dry. If you have a stock trailer with open slats on the sides, make sure you tarp the hay tightly. And if your tarp was purchased in a year that starts with 19, go buy a new one, because it won’t survive the trip. Even if you don’t end up needing all that hay, someone else might, and we are all horse people. And horse cats. We look out for one another.
Water, oh water. It is essential to life. I know you are thinking, but Tony, you said hurricanes bring lots of rain and water. Yes, I did say that. But that’s not water you or your animals should be drinking. Flood water is unsafe for drinking, and usually has sewage, oil, and a ton of other contaminants in it. You don’t even want your horses to stand in flood water, trust me. It’s an infection nightmare.
So, once you know a storm is coming, fill up all your water buckets, barrels, cans, and pots. Fill up your muck tubs (after cleaning them thoroughly of course). Make sure your water troughs are full. Anything that’s clean and holds water, fill it up. Most places can’t get water without electricity, so until power is restored, you and your animals will have to rely on your water stores. You might have a generator that runs your well, but don’t rely on that 100%. Chance favors a prepared mind.
Speaking of generators, make sure you have plenty of fuel on hand. IN APPROVED SAFETY CONTAINERS!!! Don’t be one of “those” people I’ve seen filling up water jugs or laundry detergent containers with fuel. Fuel will melt through most plastics (it takes about thirty seconds for gas to eat through a milk jug). Be sure to have enough gasoline, propane, and diesel to power your generator, tractors and vehicles. You will likely need to use your hand dandy tractor to remove fallen limbs and trees once it’s safe to do so. And if evacuating is necessary, your truck will need fuel to get out of the state. You all know that when there is a hurricane a-coming, finding fuel is next to impossible locally, so have enough to get you far away from where the storm is headed.
Missile Reduction Pact
Finally, in preparation for the season, spend some time outside picking up any debris that may be laying around. Pick up tree limbs, lumber, fence posts, really anything that could become a flying object during a storm. Secure everything so that wind can’t catch it and send it Tomahawk Missile style through your pasture, barn or house. Have a debris removal company come and pick up any other unwanted stuff. It may save you or your animal’s lives. Don’t forget the jumps in your arena, or the obstacles on your course, or the barrels in your ring. Even a medium hurricane can send a two-by-four through a concrete block wall, so you don’t want anything flying around your pasture.
Hurricanes are never a fun time. You can make them less stressful by simply being prepared and having a plan. If you have questions or concerns give the clinic a call, my people are happy to talk to you about how to best be prepared in case of a storm. Don’t you worry, we will be here right along side of you riding it out and will always be available should you have an emergency. That is what we do.
Until next week,
P.S. I have several other blogs on this topic. Some of them talk about whether to bring your horses in or leave them out (it’s complicated), tips for identifying your horses as your (both for insurance purposes, and in case they get lost), and a lot of other stuff. You can find them by clicking on the magnifying glass at the top and typing the word “hurricane” in the box. Or, you can listen to one of the two podcasts my humans have done on this topic over on the Podcast Page. You can also brush up on your equine first aid knowledge and bandaging skills over on my YouTube Channel. There’s a lot to think about with horses and catastrophes, so make sure you’re covering all the bases you can.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!