New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2003


from the Humane Society of the United States

With an effective emergency plan, you may have enough time to move your horses to safety during an emergency. If you are unprepared or wait until the last minute to evacuate, you could be told by emergency management officials that you must leave your horses behind. If left behind, your horses could be unattended for days without care, food, or water. The following are suggestions to help you plan for emergencies.

In the Event of a Barn Fire

* Immediately call 911 or your local emergency services.

* Do not enter the barn if it is already engulfed in flames.

* If it is safe for you to enter the barn, evacuate horses one at a time starting with the most accessible horses. Be sure to put a halter and lead rope on each horse when you open the stall door. Be aware that horses tend to run back into burning barns out of fear and confusion.

* Blindfold horses only if necessary. Many horses will balk at a blindfold, making evacuation more difficult and time consuming.

* Move your horses to paddocks close enough to reach quickly but far enough from the barn that the horses will not be affected by the fire and smoke. Never let horses loose in an area where they are able to return to the barn.

* After the fire, be sure to have all your horses checked by a veterinarian. Smoke inhalation can cause serious lung damage and respiratory complications. Horses are prone to stress and may experience colic after a fire.

Horse Evacuation Tips

* Make arrangements in advance to have your horse trailered in case of an emergency. If you do not have your own trailer or do not have enough trailer space for all of your horses, be sure you have several people on standby to help evacuate your horses.

* Make arrangements with a friend or another horse owner to stable your horses if needed. Contact your local animal care and control agency, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area.

* Inform friends and neighbors of your evacuation plans. Post detailed instructions in several places—including the barn office or tack room, the horse trailer, and barn entrances— to ensure they are accessible to emergency workers in case you are not able to evacuate your horses yourself.

* Place Coggins tests, veterinary papers, identification photographs, and vital information—such as medical history, allergies, and emergency telephone numbers (veterinarian, family members, etc.)—in a watertight envelope. Store the envelope with your other important papers in a safe place that can be quickly reached.

* Keep halters ready for your horses. Each halter should include the following information: the horse’s name, your name, your telephone number, and another emergency telephone number where someone can be reached.

* Prepare a first aid kit that is portable and easily accessible.

* Be sure to have on hand a supply of water, hay, feed, and medications for several days for each horse you are evacuating.

* It is important that your horses are comfortable being loaded onto a trailer. Practice the procedure so they become used to it.

Taking your horses with you may not always be possible during an emergency. So consider different types of disasters and whether your horses would be better off in a barn or loose in a field. Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans. For more information on caring for horses, livestock and pets in emergencies, visit

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