Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Animal Emergency

Disaster Action Guidelines for Horse and Livestock Owners

Natural disasters, such as flash floods, hurricanes or forest fires, and man-made problems, such as gas explosions and leaking tank cars, can arrive with little, if any, warning. By developing a disaster action plan for yourselves and your animals, you can improve the chances that all of you have to make it through a disaster safely.

Plan Ahead, Be Prepared

Take a careful look at your property. Identify the best place for your animals in each type of disaster you can foresee.

Check for alternate water sources in case a disaster causes power outages and pumps and automatic watering systems stop working.

Have enough fresh water and hay on hand for 48 to 72 hours.

Prepare for the possibility that you might have to evacuate your horses or livestock from your property. Find several alternative locations and check the entry requirements for each. Locations that could be used for emergency evacuation include private stables, race tracks, fair grounds, equestrian centers, private farms, and humane societies.

Make arrangements for your animals IN ADVANCE with the proper facility.

Permanently identify each animal by tattoo, microchip, brand, tag, photographs (front, rear, left and right side) and/or drawing. If a disaster strikes before you can identify your animals in these ways, paint or etch hooves, use neck bands or paint your telephone number on the side of the animal before you move it.

On each halter, place a permanent tag with your name and phone number and the animal's name.

Prepare an ID packet that contains a record of each animal's age, sex, breed, and color; special feeding instructions; documentation of any medicines with dosage instructions, name and phone number of the veterinarian that dispensed the drug; and any other identification that you can take with you when you evacuate.

Be sure all vaccinations and medical records are in writing and up-to-date. For example, as a minimum, each horse should have current Coggins test documentation. Check with your veterinarian as to what other immunizations are advisable.

Prepare an emergency kit consisting of:

  • plastic trash barrel with lid;
  • water bucket;
  • leg wraps;
  • fire-resistant non-nylon leads and halters;
  • first aid items;
  • portable radio and extra batteries;
  • flashlight;
  • sharp knife;
  • wire cutters;
  • tarpaulins; and
  • lime and bleach.

Keep trailers and vans well-maintained, full of fuel, and ready to move at all times.


During disasters you may wear different or unusual clothing, so condition your animals to strange appearances ahead of time. Acclimate your horses and livestock to trailers and vans.

Develop a priority list of which animals to save if all cannot be saved. Familiarize all farm personnel with the list in case you are not there when the disaster occurs.

Keep your insurance coverage current on your property and animals for the types of disasters you may encounter.

When Disaster Strikes

Remain CALM and FOLLOW your plan!

LISTEN to the Emergency Broadcast System station on your portable radio for information about how to locate horse and livestock care providers offering services during the disaster and for any special instructions about actions you should take to protect your animals.

If you leave your home, take your animals' immunization and health records with you. Records kept at home may be damaged or destroyed during a disaster.

If you evacuate and take your animals with you, take all your records, your emergency kit and sufficient hay and water for a minimum 48-hour period. CALL AHEAD, if possible, to make sure that your emergency location is still available.

If you must leave your animals unattended at home, leave them in the area most appropriate for the type of disaster anticipated, such as high ground in a flood.

Leave enough water for the length of time you expect to be gone. Automatic watering systems will fail if power is lost.

When the All-Clear Sounds

Be careful about leaving your animals unattended outside after a disaster. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your animal could be easily confused and become lost.

Check your property for sharp objects that could injure your animal.

Be cautious of downed power lines, raccoons, skunks or other wild animals that may have entered the area and could present real dangers to your animals.

Place your animals in a secure area. Be sure fences have not been damaged.

If any animals are lost during the disaster, contact veterinarians, humane societies, stables, race tracks, equestrian centers, surrounding farms and other facilities that might house animals. BE PREPARED TO IDENTIFY AND DOCUMENT OWNERSHIP WHEN CLAIMING LOST LIVESTOCK.

Listen to the Emergency Broadcast System for information released by your local emergency management office about locating lost animals.

Check with your veterinarian, the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association or the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for information about any disease outbreaks that may occur as a result of the disaster.

Consider establishing security measures on your farm to protect it from looters and exploiters.

If you find someone else's animal after the disaster, isolate it from your animals until it is returned to its owner or examined by a veterinarian.

Use extreme caution when approaching and handling unknown or frightened animals. Work in pairs when handling strange animals.

Developed by the NJ Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the NJ Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of State Police, Office of Emergency Management and the NJ Veterinary Medical Association.
For more Information, contact the NJ Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health at (609) 292-3965.

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