Disaster Relief: Care for Pets, Livestock, Poultry and Crops in a Radiological Emergency

Advice on what to do to care for farm animals, pets and crops in case of an escape of radioactivity or nuclear emergency from Dr Brigid Elchos, Agroterrorism Coordinator and State Public Health Veterinarian with Mississippi Board of Animal Health.
calendar icon 24 January 2014
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Pets, livestock and poultry

  • Plan ahead. Know where you can keep your animals if you need to leave your home (make plans with friends, relatives, or shelters for housing). This will be helpful for a nuclear accident or any natural disaster.
  • Use your trips for regular veterinary check-ups to practice evacuation plans from your home.
  • Purchase pet carriers or trailers to be used during an evacuation.
  • Have your pet micro-chipped for easy identification in case you are separated.
  • Place leashes, crates, medications, copies of vaccination records, identification and food that your pet may need with your family’s evacuation kit.

General Emergency

Pets, livestock and poultry

  • Protect animal feed and water by covering outside feed supplies and open water sources with tarpaulin or other appropriate material.
  • Protect livestock and poultry by sheltering them if possible and providing them with protected feed and water. If all the animals cannot be sheltered, those used for milking should be given top priority.
  • Provide sheltered livestock with protected food and water.
  • If you are within 10 miles of the power plant and can evacuate your livestock and horses, it is recommended that you do so when the 'site area emergency' is declared, as a precautionary measure.
  • Listen to public service announcements regarding emergency animal shelter information. Make sure evacuated pets are on leashes or in carriers/crates. Bring your pets’ medication and food.
  • If you must leave your pets, place them in your home or closed garage with enough protected food and water to last several days.


  • It is hard to protect an unharvested crop. However, normal harvesting and processing may still be possible.
  • Crops already harvested will be safer if they are stored inside.

Recovery, Re-entry, and Return

Pets, livestock and poultry

  • If contamination is possible, evacuated animals will be evaluated and monitored in the same manner as their owners.
  • All animals, animal feed, and animal products in the affected area will be monitored for safety by the Mississippi Department of Health in cooperation with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
  • Until directed, do not:
    • slaughter any animals
    • use fresh milk from your dairy animals or eggs from your chickens
    • engage in any dust-producing activities
    • transport or market food products
  • Contact the Mississippi Board of Animal Health at 1-888-722-3106 if you have questions about the safety of your animals.


Before using local crops, fruits, and vegetables, please contact the local civil defense/emergency preparedness office and/or the Mississippi Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Plant Industries.

January 2014

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