How to prepare pets and large animals for wildfires

Evacuating horses
Stephanie Nagler, right, helps evacuate horses from the Sullivan Canyon Equestrian Community in Brentwood on Tuesday.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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For those with pets, preparing for a wildfire means having a plan for every occupant of your home — not just the human ones.

Knowing what to do with your pets before disaster strikes will save you time and reduce chaos. As you would do for people, putting aside

emergency supplies and having your pet’s documents in order before an emergency is vital.

“First and foremost, make sure [pets] have up-to-date identification,” said Justin Khosrowabadi, public relations specialist for the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services. It makes the process of checking them into evacuation centers and returning them to you much easier. “And of course if they’re lost, it’s the best way to bring them home.”

The agency encourages people to train cats, dogs and other small and medium-size pets to feel comfortable in portable kennels, as “it will reduce a lot of time and stress when evacuating,” Khosrowabadi said.

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And be sure to have a pet evacuation kit ready.

The following steps can help prepare small and large animals for a wildfire in your community, according to the Department of Animal Services and the National Fire Protection Assn.:

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Preparing pets for emergencies

Before an emergency strikes:

  • Microchip your pets and make sure they have proper and up-to-date identification. If you’re separated from your animals, a microchip will increase your chances of reuniting with them.
  • Include phone

    numbers of out-of-area friends or family in your microchip registration. It’s a good idea to include alternate contacts in case you can’t be reached.

  • Locate pet-friendly lodgings. Contact hotels and motels in and outside of your city and ask if they accept pets during emergencies.
  • Do the same for boarding facilities. Know where they are and visit them.
  • Get your pet used to being in a kennel. It’ll make it easier to transport them.
  • Paste a rescue alert sticker visibly on one of your home’s windows with the number and species of animals in your household. (If you evacuate with your pets, write “Evacuated” on the sticker.)
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Make an animal evacuation kit

It should contain:

  • A kennel for each animal in your household displaying your name, address and phone number
  • Pet food and treats. If the food is canned, make sure they have peel tops and that you check expiration dates regularly.
  • Blankets
  • Leash, harness and collar
  • Water, at least five gallons per animal. This should be good for a week.
  • Medication
  • Copies of medical and immunization records
  • Recent photos of your pets in case they go missing or you need to provide proof of ownership
  • Cat litter and litter pan
  • Toys
  • Plastic bags for pet waste
Sheltered animals
Susie Howeth of Big Bear sits with her cat, Stripes, in a makeshift kennel at the San Bernardino International Airport, where animals are kept in a separate area of the hangar.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Preparing larger animals for evacuation will require more planning and supplies. Here are some tips from both agencies:

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Preparing large animals for emergencies
  • Microchip the animal or wrap an identification bracelet around one of its feet.
  • Train your horse or other large animal to load into a trailer.
  • If possible, make prior arrangements for boarding at stables outside of your city.
  • Store important documents and paperwork in cloud storage or several hard drives. It’s a good idea to give one to a friend or family who lives outside of your community.
The best way to get through a wildfire safely is to prepare for it. Here are some key points to remember.

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Make a large animal evacuation kit

Include the following:

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  • Food
  • Drums or barrels of water, enough for at least three days.
  • A list of all medicines and their doses and if possible, an extra supply of medication. Make sure to check their expiration dates regularly.
  • Rope and leather halters. Don’t use nylon halters. They can melt from extreme heat and burn the animal.
  • Important documents and paperwork
  • Copies of ownership records
  • Vaccination and health records
  • Microchip paperwork
  • Identification
  • Photos of brands
  • Photos of your large animal that show any distinctive marks or tattoos

If there’s an emergency and evacuations are ordered, evacuation sites for horses and other large animals will be activated by the Department of Animal Services.

It is never recommended that you leave your large animal behind or let it loose during an emergency. The Department of Animal Services offers assistance for large animal transportation.

If you have a horse and absolutely can’t evacuate with it and have to set it loose, the National Fire Protection Assn. suggests you make sure to mark or attach your contact information on it by:

  • Shaving it into its coat
  • Braiding an identification tag into its mane
  • Attaching it onto a neck band
  • Writing it on its side with spray paint or a livestock marker
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Dorany Pineda is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.