Evacuating animals in disaster
—Española Animal Shelter
The most important message in an evacuation is, “Take your animals with you if at all possible.“ During the 2000 Cerro Grande fire, some residents assumed that they would return in a day or two and left beloved pets behind with food and water. Animal control officers worked tirelessly to save as many of these pets as possible, but some perished as houses rapidly burned.
Tag all animals with identification names, cell phone numbers, numbers of friends in other states, etc. A key tag or paper covered in clear packing tape makes a good temporary tag. Alternatively, use a permanent magic marker to write information on collars, halters, and the bodies (hair coats) of larger animals.
Dogs—Any length of rope can be used for a collar and leash. Don’t hesitate to write information on your dog with a permanent magic marker.
Cats/Rabbits—Recycling bins with holes punched in for ventilation and bungee cords or duct tape to secure the top work as a good makeshift carrier if none other is available. Cats and rabbits can also be transported in pillowcases and will generally quiet down when suspended in the case.
Horses—Keep halters on horses. Tie identification tags in your horse’s mane and consider using a permanent marker to write information on your horse’s body.
Pocket pets—Any small container such as kitchen Tupperware with holes punched in for ventilation will work for transport.
Plywood—Remember that loose animals (cattle, horses, wildlife) may make it to a road to escape fire, only to be stopped by a cattle guard. If you have old plywood around, please take it with you, and if the fire is imminent, ask officials about whether or not to put plywood over the cattle guard. Covering the cattle guard will allow animals to escape, but it should not be done unless there is clear danger. You can also leave plywood propped up against the cattle guard—with a note—for firefighters to put down at their discretion.
If there’s time:
Vaccination and health records on animals are useful and may improve shelter options for your animals.
Food, water, plastic bowls, buckets, and litter pans will all help a shelter center to care for your animals. No animal should become dehydrated, but horses are especially susceptible to dehydration and colic, and a bucket of water during transport is best.
Cages, carriers, tents, and temporary fencing to contain animals will all help in the effort to care for your animals at poorly equipped evacuation centers or private homes.
There are no official government centers for companion-animal evacuees, but animal shelters and humane societies usually make an organized effort to provide some level of care. Often, large- and small-animal-care facilities are located at the county fairgrounds, so this is a good place to check if you can’t find any other information on animal care.
These facilities are usually overwhelmed, so if there is any possibility of private care for your animals, take that option, even if it means driving some distance.
Some people try to live in their tents or cars near shelter sites in order to care for their animals themselves. While animals may receive more attention this way, there is some risk: sometimes shelter sites are evacuated as the threat of fire moves closer. Without some contact with public announcements (especially at night), there’s a chance that new danger will escape notice.
If there’s no horse trailer available:
First, see if you can lead your horse slowly behind a vehicle out of the dangerous area. If your mare has a foal that is young enough, you may be able to tie the foal up in the open trunk of a car and get the mare to follow that way.
If you can’t lead your horse out of danger, letting him go free is controversial. Horses have agility and good instincts to avoid fire, but may get caught in a fence or cattle guard trying to escape. Also, horses running on the road pose some risk to firefighters who already have to watch for cattle.
If, however, it’s clear that your horse will perish if left in the pen, releasing him at least gives him a chance. Letting horses go on a roadway and putting plywood over cattle guards that they might encounter gives them a clear path to follow. Releasing them near a body of water is the second best option. Halter them and put several types of identification on them, and if you have a can of bright spray paint, spray part of their body so that they can be more easily seen.
Steps to prepare for disaster:
Get all animals collared, tagged, and identified at the first sign of trouble.
Assemble supplies—Carriers, cages, leashes, ropes, fencing materials, bowls, buckets, litter boxes, food, water, medications, and vaccination information.
Keep vehicles at the ready—Keep cars uncluttered, gassed-up, and ready to be loaded. Keep the horse trailer hooked up to the vehicle at all times for a quick exit.
Write a note about what animals you have with instructions that you have circled, indicating which ones have been left behind. Leave rescuers concise, pertinent information as to where stranded animals might be hiding and the predicted behavior of these animals.
Practice gathering animals—Call outdoor cats and dogs with a bell and give them a treat each time they come so that when you need them, they will come quickly. Trailer horses a few times so that they are familiar with the event.
Researchers find link between food odors and lifespan in fruit flies
—New Mexico State University
Researchers hoping to learn why organisms tend to live longer if their intake of calories is restricted have made a startling discovery—in fruit flies, just the smell of food can have a negative effect on longevity.
Scientists have known for decades that restricted dietary intake can increase the lifespan of many species, but the mechanism that causes this is not understood. Short-lived organisms like the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, are studied to help unravel this mystery, and the knowledge gained could have important implications for human health.
A group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, and the University of Houston report that exposure to food odors can modulate lifespan and partially reverse the longevity-extending effects of dietary restriction in fruit flies.
“Not only can they not have their cake—they can’t smell their cake” without shortening their lifespans, said Wayne Van Voorhies, a faculty member in the Molecular Biology Program at New Mexico State University and a member of the research collaboration.
The researchers, led by Scott Pletcher of the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor, measured the lifespans of different strains of fruit flies in the presence and absence of food odors—specifically live yeast, which is an important component of the flies’ diets. Exposure to food odors reduced lifespan in flies that had been subjected to dietary restriction.
The researchers also studied genetically-altered strains of fruit flies to determine whether loss of olfactory function—the sense of smell—had an effect on lifespan. They found that in all cases, the longevity of the mutant flies was considerably greater than their wild-type controls.
Van Voorhies did the metabolic measurements for the study, using sensitive detectors in his laboratory at NMSU to analyze the aerobic respiration of the tiny flies. Carefully controlling the flow and oxygen content of air flowing to the flies in sealed systems, he can determine the flies’ metabolic rates by analyzing the carbon dioxide they give off.
At the cellular level, this metabolic process is essentially the same in all organisms. Fruit flies and other short-lived organisms make useful “model organisms” for studies such as this because studying humans is impractical, Van Voorhies noted.
“If you are studying longevity, by definition the study is going to take longer than the lifespan of the researcher,” he said.
Van Voorhies said metabolic studies of the fruit flies showed that longer lifespans in those subjected to caloric restriction were not simply a result of slower metabolism. “A simple way to get a fruit fly to live longer is to put it at lower temperatures,” he said. “It will live longer but everything is going slower in the animal, so you haven’t fundamentally altered the way it has aged. So we wanted to make sure the effect of caloric restriction wasn’t just slowing the animals down, and we found that it wasn’t. You can have a high metabolic rate and be long-lived, and that’s an encouraging observation.”
Ultimately, understanding any link between human longevity and caloric intake, and the role our sense of smell may play in the process, will require more knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms at work, Van Voorhies said.
“You continue to work on the model organisms to try to figure out what the actual mechanism is, and then you can try to apply it to people,” he said. “The pharmaceutical companies would like to be able to mimic the beneficial effects of caloric restriction by having you take a pill. But for that to work, you need to understand the mechanism by which caloric restriction extends longevity.”
Sometimes, as in this new discovery of a link between food odors and lifespan in fruit flies, the questions get more complicated as scientists gain more knowledge.