Master During Disaster: Pet Owners Emergency Guide

By Martha Michael >>>

When disaster strikes, it’s natural for people to look to their own safety. But for animals, who are powerless to aid in the effort to find their own shelter, it’s only fair for us to create a plan for their safety, as much as is humanly possible.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says that if your situation is dangerous to humans, then it’s dangerous to animals also. Do you have to evacuate with dogs, cats, snakes, or other family members? Find out, in advance, if you’re going somewhere that allows animals. Is it a pet-friendly hotel? And if you’re using a crate, it’s best if your four-legged friend is used to traveling in a carrier before an emergency occurs.

You want to have at least one week’s supply of food and water for all of your pets, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, bring copies of your animals’ vaccination and other medical records. For a list of preparations see our charts.

Anyone who breathed a sigh of relief at the rainfall Southern California received in winter may be surprised to know it may make wildfire season worse this year. Dry drought conditions are an obvious threat, but this year the rain brought up a bumper crop of green grassland, which provides fuel for fires.

Canyon Country resident Tracy Boldroff lives in Sand Canyon, an area hit with fires every few years. As a member of the Fire Safety Council and a participant in the local Safe Haven program, residents with large animals turned to Boldroff during the Sand Fire last year.

“Each and every fire or emergency situation is different, and the best laid plans aren’t always possible,” said Boldroff, owner of Oak Creek Corral, a Sand Canyon ranch with horses, goats, alpacas, and other animals. “With the Sand Fire, I happened to be visiting a friend on Live Oak Canyon when it first began. The first thing I did was let them know I had seen a fire and advised them to keep an eye on it. Then I headed to my ranch to begin monitoring the walkie-talkie issued by the Fire Safety Council.”

Within an hour, Boldroff and her daughter, Kim, received a call from her neighbor, Tita Brown, who is her first point of contact. She was asking them to help evacuate St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary, a pet adoption service in Sand Canyon.

“We spent several hours there and then returned home to continue to monitor the fire,” Tracy Boldroff said. “My daughter spent the entire night helping Tita evacuate other ranches as the fire continued to burn.”

By the next morning, the fire was out of control, so Boldroff called a meeting of all Oak Creek Corral boarders and clients.

“We went over which horses can and cannot be ridden out of the canyon if needed,” she said. “We made sure each horse had a halter and lead rope on their stall, with the horse’s name and our phone number and address.”

The Sand Fire moved very quickly and not long after their meeting the sheriff’s deputies were at the gate issuing evacuation orders.

“Since we have a large number of livestock, not only horses, evacuating is a huge task,” Boldroff said. “It’s important not to use up manpower and trailers until they are clearly needed, so you do not jeopardize someone closer to danger not being able to get the resources they need. So that’s why we keep in touch with Tita, as she is usually aware of who needs what.”

Since the evacuation orders were given to the entire canyon at the same time, the roads were blocked in both directions and they wouldn’t allow any trailers into the canyon.

“That is when the equestrian community is at its best — they all come together to help one another,” Boldroff described. “With one post and one phone call, my daughter had enough riders at our ranch within 30 minutes to ride our rideable horses out of the canyon.”

Boldroff called other resources and had trailers waiting at nearby Vons Market to take the horses away from immediate danger. They were taken to four different locations, where you had to, then, locate hay.

“We assign one person to oversee each location and make sure we are good guests and the horses are not a burden to the gracious hosts,” she said.

Like Boldroff said, things don’t always go exactly as planned. “We did have a couple of bumps in the road; three of our horses ended up in the wrong trailer and we found them through social media,” she said. “Two of our horses were stalled together and one kicked the %#*& out of the other, which required stitches, so that was another issue — getting a vet out to another location.”

Tracy and Kim Boldroff stayed at their ranch during the crisis to watch over the animals that couldn’t be loaded into trailers. They also made several trips to transport horses out of the canyon as the fire continued, and they checked on homes of friends who were evacuated and worried about livestock or belongings left behind.

“We also had to arrange for some of our horses to be moved three times, as the fire kept changing directions,” Tracy Boldroff said. “Once the fire started down Ravenhill Road we were advised to leave, so we got the dogs and spent the night at our friends on Lost Canyon Road.”

Once the fire was contained, the task of bringing everyone back began.

“Going home is a bit hard, because everyone is past tired by now and the horses are uptight also,” Boldroff said. “And few people are able to take time off work to help. The days are long. But, again, the equestrian community pulls together and helps each other.”

Whether it’s a Category 5 hurricane or a Magnitude 8 earthquake, there is a potential for disaster, no matter where you live. As you plan for the safety and well-being of you and your family during these trying circumstances, remember to create a survival plan that includes your pets.