DURING A DISASTER: PLANS FOR STAY AND GO
IS RELOCATION THE BEST THING FOR MY HORSE?
I have had a think about the implications of relocating my horses, even if a calm and organised transfer could be arranged. Is it too much for some horses to load on a dark, windy night with smoke in the air, having to find back routes to get out, arriving at a different location with strange horses and no time to get used to their new surrounds?
My well-travelled competition horses would cope fine, but the unbroken youngster and the old retired fellows- well that could be a different thing altogether.
I am comfortable that the decisions about go or stay, or relocate early are the best for each individual horse.
THE EMERGENCY AGISTMENT LIST- EVEN IF THE PLAN IS TO STAY
I have a list of temporary and longer term alternative agistment options, which is kept updated, with properties pre-inspected and draft agistment agreements sorted.
Given that show and pony club grounds may not be open ahead of or during,an emergency, I have to consider these types of venues as a ‘last resort’ should my list of pre-arranged buddies fail.
At public venues, horses will need my full supervision, which means that I cannot go back and defend my property or care for family members. There may be stallions, young stock or other species all competing for the same few facilities.
ACCEPTING HORSES FOR EMERGENCY REFUGE (PRIVATE)
I can only accept horses for emergency accommodation if I am well outside the geographic area of the disaster. Poorly planned relocations may mean that some horses could be relocated multiple more times, which happened during the Sampson Flat fire.
When horses arrive at my place they are put in yards, the owner's details taken, the horses photographed from all angles and if I can, a temporary agistment agreement signed.
We plan to keep to the same diet as provided by the owner or alternatively very simple diet of meadow hay or other advice as offered by a veterinarian, to reduce the likelihood of stress colic.
Observations are written down at least twice daily to make sure the horses are not suffering any negative affects from their experience.
HOW TO HELP FROM A DISTANCE DURING A DISASTER
I don't regularly volunteer for groups that help animals in disasters, but I do my bit where I can.
During disasters, I am good online, and can share information about relief and recovery efforts, donate to registered charities or help registered non-profit organisations.
The most important work is always done in 'peace time' (but not nearly given enough recognition). That is to work with my local horse club members or neighbours to achieve planning tasks, properly identify all horses and encourage others to do the same.
EMERGENCY EQUINE HOLDING AREAS
Holding areas, or collection points for horses can be run by non-profit clubs or a private venue.
I can work as a team running an emergency collection point, where I found out that it is essential that there is a co-ordinator appointed and records kept. Horses must be registered on arrival, especially if brought in by transport drivers who are not the owners.
Registering arrival horses includes taking as much identification information as can be obtained. A collection point tag is put onto the horse and it is given an ID number. This number is used on all records during the emergency, as not all horses names, owners or homes will be known.
A vet will be needed to triage horses as they come in, or visit reguarly. Owners need to be aware that all costs are billed back. If the owners are unknown, advise PIRSA, RSPCA or SAPOL as soon as possible.
No horse should leave without proof of ownership provided, or evidence of owner permission.
HOW TO HELP OUT ON THE GROUND WHEN DISASTER STRIKES NEAR YOU
I have joined SAVEM, who have a base of trained volunteers which can be activated during emergencies. Friends of mine are trained volunteers who link with RSPCA services or non-profits who support their work . Its best to join and receive training with the organisation(s) of your choice in 'peace time' so that you are ready for deployment at short notice.
Its very sad to hear about horses 'rescued' out of paddocks without the owner's permission (that is actually theft!), or horses taken to places and owners not advised of their location.
WHAT DOES GOVERNMENT DO IN RELATION TO ANIMALS?
I understand that the responsibility for the care of my horses remains with me at all times.
I know that under the State Emergency Management Plan arrangements, PIRSA will work with SAVEM and RSPCA to provide services related to animals. I keep listening to the radio and checking other communication channels for official messages relating to animals.
Horse owners are legally required to have a "Property Identification Code (PIC)" which alerts PIRSA to landholders who have animals and can be prioritised and assessed accordingly.
WORK WITH EMERGENCY SERVICES AS PART OF A TEAM
I know that emergency services need to save human lives first. However, there may be situations where we need to work as a team, for example, to help a horse in a road crash float accident.
Emergency services will set up 'zones' which are designed to keep people safe and work towards a better rescue outcome for the horse.
I might be asked to wear a helmet, to hand over head control of the horse to another person so that I can work with the veterinarian and safety officer to ensure the best outcome for the horse. My phone had numbers in it with transport options to home or equine hospital.
Once the rescue is over, and the horse is returned to me, that is not the end of the rescue. Even though my horse might look healthy after being rescued, it can take a few hours to a couple of days for hypothermia, shock or evidence of other injuries to appear.
SHARING RECOVERY PLAN IDEAS
Did you know that Horse SA can help clubs and horse businesses to share emergency planning and recovery ideas?
Schedule a presentation by the CFS Community Engagement Unit, SA State Emergency Service or Horse SA at your next rally or event.
Combine education with scanning horses for microchips. Owners can check if details on the database are up to date. If owners do not know which database, a search can be done on Pet Address
Club members can also check out a wet bulb thermometer as a tool for discussing hot weather policy and heat stress.