Tony the cat here. One of the things we talked about recently was being prepared for a hurricane. This week I wanted to talk more about evacuation plans.  So last week I was lounging about while Isaac was passing us by, and I overheard the girls talking about how badly South Florida flooded from the rain Isaac dropped. I even got to see some pictures which I’ll share with you. While we saw just enough rain for me to hate being outside, those poor folks down there were riding around in boats, swamp buggies, and large trucks that were just barely able to drive through the water. Some places registered two feet of flood water. I feel bad for the cats down there that got soaked. In some places, humans had to leave their homes and their animals. Rescue personnel had to go back and get the animals, or other helpers. The girls made some strong arguments about the importance of having Coggins and other forms of identification ready in case you humans have to evacuate quickly.  You see, when an area floods, has electrical damage, has devastating fires, or another disaster, many people are forced to evacuate. Sometimes they are forced to evacuate quickly, and aren’t prepared to take their animals along. In these cases, animals may be evacuated by emergency personnel or rescue organizations who work to re-unite the animals with their owners once the disaster has been contained or remedied. When this happens, animals need to have all proper documentation and some kind of identification for them to be properly reunited with their owners. There are a few very important things that horse owners can do to ensure that their equine pals are ready for any type of emergency or natural disaster in which they must be evacuated.

First and foremost, most states require that a horse have an updated Coggins test to be transported. Now, you may think, “But what good is a Coggins going to do if I’m not there with it in hand to transport my horse?”. Though you may not be present, I’ll talk about ways to make sure your horse can be identified. Coggins reports are stored on an online database, so if they are up to date, they can be searched on that database to ensure the horse is ready for transport. The Coggins documents now have color photographs of each horse from the left, right and front to allow easy identification. Any time you are forced to leave your property, make sure that your horse’s halters are labeled with their name, and your name.  The Coggins reports can be searched by the owner name and horse name, so if the horse’s halter is labeled with their name and your name, they can easily be identified, and their Coggins can be referenced. Keep your horses’ Coggins in a three ring binder in plastic sleeves to ensure they are not damaged. If you are able to haul the horses with you when you evacuate, then you’ll already have their Coggins paperwork on hand and at the ready. If emergency personnel have to go in to retrieve your horses, you can provide them with a copy of the Coggins reports. Many owners decide not to pull Coggins on horses that they don’t haul regularly, but this kind of situation should show owners why Coggins tests are a necessity for their horses.  Even those older horses, and yes the pesky babies who like to chase us cats, are important to their human owners, and in the case of an emergency they should be just as up to date on their documentation as your other horse partners.

Given the low cost, the ease of testing and administration, and overall importance of Coggins and animal identification, it’s easy to see why any human should make sure these things are done for their animals. Natural disasters and emergencies happen every day. Here in Florida, we’re often visited by those pesky tropical storms and hurricanes, plus we often face brush fires in the dry seasons. If you ever have to evacuate, wouldn’t you feel better knowing your horses, and even your other animals, were all set for a speedy getaway? I’m sure your horses would feel reassured too, I know I would. So in closing, I hope that you’ll take a second to look and make sure your horses (and your other animal friends) are fully prepared should you ever have to evacuate. Make sure all documents are up to date, make sure you have labeled halters, collars, or name tags, and look into the options available to help ensure your animals are located. Dr. Lacher is always ready to help you out, should you need or want to update your horses or have them micro-chipped. She can go visit you, or you can bring your horses here to the office, where I’ll happily greet you and help out where I can. May your litter box always be clean, and your food bowl full.