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Colorado Horse Council offers large animal evacuation tips


What would you do if you had to evacuate your livestock? Are you prepared for an emergency evacuation? There is nothing like the recent High Park Fire in northern Colorado to remind us of the importance of being prepared for any emergency where our livestock could be affected.

As a result of the evacuations from the High Park Fire, The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colo., opened their doors, June 9. As a designated location specifically for livestock in an evacuation area for Larimer County, The Ranch at one point housed 400 horses, cows, alpacas, llamas, sheep and goats.

According to Abby Powell, senior event manager, the intake, housing and care of these animals went really well and when it came time for the animals to go home, "no animals went unclaimed, not one." This success is due to strategy and organization.

Whether the animal was brought in by the owner, a neighbor, friend or the Larimer County Sheriff's Posse each went through a strict check in process. This check in process was implemented to identify the owner, where the animal came from and specific care. The Brand Inspector was brought in to identify any unknown animals. Not many had brands but most animals were brought in by their owners so this wasn't a huge issue. Most of these animals stayed at The Ranch for three weeks. After enduring the stress of evacuation and living under different care it can be difficult to identify an animal the owner hasn't been able to see for a long period of time. Situations like this show that a brand inspection can be very important in identifying your animal.

Due to issues that can arise with the identification and care of evacuated livestock the Jefferson County Horse Council created a new plan to handle evacuations in 2002. In instances of evacuation, animals are brought in by owners or one of their three evacuation teams. Depending on the circumstances the Jeffco Mounted Search and Rescue, Just Go HEAT and Front Range Animal Evacuation Team can rescue animals. This plan involves a strict identification process, a strategic effort in rescuing animals and organization of the intake of animals and influx of volunteers and donations.

Being organized is extremely important. This not only makes for a positive outcome but it calms the people and animals affected by an evacuation. Abby Powell from The Ranch Events Complex and Barb Suggs, large animal evacuations operations manager of the Jefferson County Horse Council have some great tips on how to handle an evacuation and be prepared for such a situation.

It is important to be prepared with an emergency box in your barn. This should contain records, inspections, identification and a few weeks of supplements, medications, feed and emergency supplies for each individual animal. Also keep in mind that you may not be the one evacuating your animal. Barb Suggs says, "it is important that your animals are trained to load into a trailer and that they will do it for a stranger."

From their experience, the most important advice they can give is to evacuate your livestock as soon as you have been notified of pre-evacuation. It will always take longer than anticipated to evacuate your animals and you need to be worried about how the smoke will affect them.

For more tips and guidelines in preparing for emergency evacuations for horses visit the Jefferson County Horse Council website at www.jeffcohorse.com.

Date: 9/17/2012



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