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Riding the storm out

by Rebecca Colnar, Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.

During disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, one of the biggest misconceptions people with horses have is "leave them behind and they will revert back to wild instincts."

"The truth is, our horses are domesticated and don't know how to take care of themselves. They don't know how to ride out a storm like wild ponies on Assateague Island," says Debi Crane.

Crane, of Union County, N.C., has been active with Emergency Animal Rescue Service, helping in everything from the past winter's flooding in California to Hurricane Opal.

Better known as EARS, the organization has been dubbed "the Red Cross for Animals."

Crane says that EARS encourages people to take their pets and animals with them if at all possible. "Fences are going to come down, debris is going to be flying around-the best thing to do is to get the horse out of the area before the disaster actually happens."

She cautions that if you must leave your horses when disaster is imminent, at least mark them.

"Paint the last four digits of your phone number on their sides," she advises, "or attach your name and number to the mane in a waterproof bag."

She also advises leaving horses in a pasture where they can get out of the wind and rain, such as a low-lying area, but with a hill in case the water starts to rise. "Do not leave your horse in the barn. Horses in a barn don't stand a chance.

"The very best thing to do is preplan," she notes. "Get a master plan in order, arrange with neighbors and friends how you're going to evacuate the animals and where you can keep these animals before the disaster strikes."

Crane also encourages advance planning for feed and boarding.

"Make arrangements where you'll get your feed and hay from, and where you can board your horse," she advises. "Even if the flood only lasts one day, there's a good chance that your feed will be soaked and the grass will be contaminated with chemicals, such as oil and gasoline, spilled during the flood. You may not be able to move your horse back home for months."

EARS not only goes to disasters to aid animals, but also has developed workshops to teach disaster preparedness to those who want to help animals during disasters. The volunteers travel to disaster areas and provide food, shelter, transportation and grooming as well as overseeing adoption of unclaimed animals.

For information on EARS or upcoming workshops, contact Debi Crane at (704) 843-146
or EARS (a division of United Animal Nations) at (916) 429-2457.

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