HSUS and FEMA Sign Historic Agreement

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in December signed an historic agreement through FEMA's Project Impact to assist communities and individuals to include animals in their disaster and evacuation plans. This initiative will include horses as well as pets and livestock.

While horses have held a place in disaster planning for several years, the recent FEMA/HSUS partnership will bring critical national attention to the importance of protecting horses from natural and man-made disasters. According to the New York Times, there are more than 6 million horses in the United States: a fact which underscores the need for advanced disaster-related planning. HSUS will continue to work in cooperation with FEMA and other organizations to promote the incorporation of horses into individual and community disaster planning initiatives.

Through their experience across the country, HSUS Disaster Teams have found that strengthening the local response through emergency planning and education is the best way to meet a community's needs during times of disaster. HSUS will develop educational and partnership programs to encourage local disaster preparedness within horse communities.

"HSUS is expanding animal disaster training programs with an emphasis on serving the equestrian community," said Melissa Seide Rubin, HSUS Senior Director of Disaster and Field Services. "We are in the process of developing special courses in trailer extraction, horse rescue, horse handling skills, first aid, and animal sheltering to benefit emergency personnel and community organizations."

In addition to these educational efforts, HSUS will work to inform emergency management, response agencies, organizations, and individuals about proper techniques for horse protection and rescue in disaster situations.

Educational materials designed specifically for the equestrian community will be developed by HSUS on a variety of topics, including preventing barn fires and evacuation tips.

To strengthen the network of disaster resources within a community, HSUS will promote liaisons between equine associations/individual horse owners and emergency management agencies to provide crucial elements of disaster preparedness such as safe areas to keep horses, published evacuation routes, and identifying sources of rescue equipment and trained personnel in the case of a potential disaster.

"It is important for people to understand that disasters occur more frequently than just hurricanes and earthquakes. Disasters can strike in the form of hazardous materials spills, train derailments, and fires," explained Rubin. "It is our goal to provide outlets for the equestrian community to access useful emergency planning information and partnership links so they can be prepared in disaster situations."

For more information about how horse owners and associations can ensure their horses are included in disaster planning in their community, contact HSUS Disaster Services at 301/258-3103.

Look for an upcoming article on Disaster Planning in the May issue of The Horse.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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