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Post Disaster Hurricane Pet Care Tips

Welcome to the pet care section of Diana L. Guerrero's Ark Animals. Hurricane Katrina has devastated three states. What can hurricane victims expect? How can animals be helped? Just in case of disaster, are you and your pet prepared? Animal expert Diana L. Guerrero offers post hurricane disaster tips. If you live in a disaster prone area, make sure to get hurricane animal (pet) disaster preparedness tips now. Feel free to visit the media room for press releases, recent media coverage, and related items.

Post Disaster Hurricane Pet Care Tips

The 2005 hurricane season has devastated many communities displacing and traumatizing both humans and animals. As the drama of recovery continues, hurricane victims need help. Find the animal organizations you can help and donate to the Katrina Hurricane Animal Rescue Efforts. Animal owners can get tips to help their pets with post-traumatic stress here, too.

This information is provided courtesy of Diana L. Guerrero. Guerrero is the author of the booklet, "Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals" and is one of the contributing editors to "Resources for Crisis Management in Zoos and Other Animal Care Facilities, Volume I." The second volume is scheduled for release in the Summer of 2006. In addition to her written works, she holds numerous certifications in the animal disaster field from groups such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). She has also worked with many of the nation's animal disaster rescue groups.

Hurricane Katrina will be followed by post disaster problems. If you are not a trained volunteer that has been asked to enter into a disaster area, please don't. Your presence will only complicate matters in an already taxed area.

Contaminated water, vectors and other dangers exist. However, it is important for pet/animal owners to know what happened to their beloved pet. Shelters or other rescue groups often create books of deceased animal pictures to help pet owners find out for sure. If the carcass is a health hazard, take a photo, remove any ID collars, tags, note special scars or markings and then dispose of the carcass.

Other problems include abnormal behavior patterns. For instance, many animals will move to higher during the subsequent flooding. Be alert for snakes, rodents, alligators and other creatures. Predators will eat deceased (or hunt live) animals, raid storage areas, disperse garbage (creating health hazards) and pose threats to humans or pets.

During disaster situations, injured or animals that pose a threat will be eliminated. At least on sea lion has been shot--creating public outcry. However, understand that the situation is dismal and rescue personnel are doing the best they can under high stress conditions and miserable circumstances.

Human shelters will not allow pets. It is critical that you have a way to keep your dog/cat under control with either a crate or a tie out cable. Temporary shelters will be set up as soon as animal rescue teams are allowed to enter.

Animals left in flood zones probably drowned. If they escaped by swimming they face risk of exhaustion, drowning or predators. Anywhere there is an increase in water deposits will result in an increase of fleas, mosquitoes, and later heartworm.

Please do not return to the disaster area if you do not have to. But if you are returning to your home, remember that your animals will need to be confined and supervised since natural landmarks and scent markings will have been destroyed or completely gone. Clean up restraint and supervision are critical during this time.

All disasters have unique problems not only due to the type of disaster, but also due to the location and population. Problems found include cuts and bruises, as well as shock, heat stroke, injury by flying debris, collapsing structures, vehicles, and broken bones, disease and dehydration. Contaminated water, injury from floating or moving objects, and exhaustion can create other problems.

Animals will show signs of post disaster stress trauma. Most will not want to eat, they may be defensive and aggressive or clingy. Some will begin to lose hair, drop weight, or regress toileting or grooming habits.

To assist your animal, attempt to establish a routine of walking and feeding. Don't physically try to comfort the animal as it often escalates fearful responses. Instead, talk quietly and calmly. Brush your animal or engage in play. Pets will assist in calming people down.

Here are some post behavior guidelines related to animal behavior:

DOGS: Escaped animals will often pack up and roam together. Raiding trash
sites, scavenging, and feeding on carcasses are common behaviors. Many will run
blindly and can be hit by vehicles. Some will seek human companionship.
Aggression and self-protective instincts will be a problem and rescue personnel
should use caution. Use of snare poles on aggressive animals is recommended. A
regular slip leash will probably be the most useful tool, along with food lures.

CATS: These animals will normally hide in close proximity to their home.
They will be extremely nervous and sometimes aggressive. They will show
crepuscular activity, being active and visible in the early morning or at dusk. Cat
gloves, catch poles, nets, or EVAC-SACS® are recommended equipment. Feeding
stations with live traps will work as well.

PET BIRDS: Birds will usually be nervous when removed from their normal
surroundings. It is best to keep their cages covered to help keep them calm. Escaped animals may hang around their home area. Leaving food and water out is essential to their survival. However, the risk of loss to predators is high. Mist nets recommended if capture is necessary. Since many birds are territorial or flock oriented, using other birds to lure escaped members and other related strategies are also recommended.

HORSES: Escaped animals will usually group together and move in herd
formation. This unit is most easily handled by rounding them up and moving them
into a corral. Some individuals or small groups may be caught by using a lead rope
around the neck and then making a temporary halter. Since not all horses are
familiar with being tied or penned, use caution and watch for behavioral clues. A
nose twitch, or skin grab on the lower neck, or a stud chain are alternate ways of
dealing with a less than cooperative horse. Remember to use caution around
stallions and mares with foals. If strange horses are housed together they will work
out a hierarchy, should this confined area be fairly small, they are likely to injure
each other and/or any people handling them . Watch for unrest and use extreme caution.

SHEEP, GOATS, LLAMAS:These ruminants can sometimes be found together. They have a tendency to flee and exhibit extreme flight response and panic. They will gather together and will calm down once with their conspecifics. Since these types of animals are usually more used to human caretakers, they will usually be more accepting of direction through flight herding techniques and sometimes food. Again, visual barriers can be used, or luring them with another of their species. Housing situations are more flexible since they are tolerant of each other. Fighting between rams, billies, and male llamas can be extreme. Threa ts from humans may result in them butting the person so caution should be used. Control can be done by grabbing a rear leg and holding it up (except llamas ), a hold under the chin with another hand behind the ea rs can often elicit cooperation in sheep. Unless you are familiar with handling this type of animal seek help from someone who is.

CATTLE: Cattle normally adapt well to new situations. In normal circumstances they will follow herd instincts and avoid fire or flood. Under stress or isolation from the herd they may panic and move into danger. Range cattle are better herded with a truck, or on horseback for safety purposes. All cattle should be handled this way. Portable gate panels can be used to create chutes to help load in stocktrailers, and temporary penning areas. Most cattle if given space to lie down, along with food and water will calm down quickly. Bulls may or may not fight for dominance. Nose leads, lariats, and halters are some restraints devices to be utilized, but only if you are experienced.

PIGS: Depending on if the animal is a pet or commercial animal will
determine how you will address these animals. Pets will usually be found isolated
and will be fairly amiable to human intervention. Other swine will not be so easy.
Swine are very dangerous animals and care should be taken in handling them.
Commercial a nimals will congregate and forge together. They will usually only
attack if cornered, attacked, or disturbed when feeding. Flight distance can be used
along with visual barriers to move them into specific areas. Housing will be a
challenge due to their rooting skills and strength. They will need a cool area with a
pen height of a minimum of five feet. Each animal will need a fair amount of space
and access to a larger area to avoid stress and fighting. Electric fencing about six
inches off the ground will help prevent rooting if electricity or a generator is
available. Pet pigs should be housed alone, away from socialized group animals.
Swine also need to be housed with animals of the same size. Pens should not be
entered into alone.

The above article is excerpted from Guerrero's animal disaster booklet, now in the seventh edition. The booket offers tips to prepare prior to a disaster, how to form or get involved in a animal disaster preparedness network, and what items to include in kits for dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Guerrero also includes tip sheets for behavior, identification, health, diet, and sanitation for multiple species during a disaster. The booklet ends with a section on post disaster animal behavior and list valuable resources for the pet owner including animal disaster agencies, where to get training, and suppliers of kits and equipment.

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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