Keep livestock safe this winter | Pets & People

In October, Kitsap County saw record-breaking rainfall, and the storms and power outages of 2016 are expected again this winter.

Bad weather is not just an inconvenience for pet owners, but can actually be a safety concern — especially for livestock.

In the last two months, the number of calls to Kitsap Animal Control and Kitsap Humane Society about missing, found, and injured livestock has gone up significantly. Animal control officers have had to rescue and reunite wayward and injured sheep, goats, roosters, horses and, most recently, a miniature pony.

When livestock go missing, they are prime targets for predators like coyotes and bears. Livestock are also at high risk of being hit by cars when trying to cross roads or while lingering on the curb. It is very important that livestock owners take time and care as winter arrives to make sure their pets will be safe and protected in the dark and stormy weather.

How can you protect your livestock?

Prepare in advance

n Ensure your housing and containment is adequate. Different types of livestock have different needs when it comes to safe housing. The size and type of enclosure needed is not one size fits all. For example, fencing that works well to contain pigs (which root under fencing) may not be effective for containing goats (which can climb over fencing). Make sure that you have fencing and housing that is sufficient for each type of livestock that you have. Any and all doors or gates should have secure latches or locks that can withstand wind and animals pushing against them if spooked.

n Be proactive about maintenance to your property and/or fence line. Downed trees and flooded ditches are a threat to fencing, so before the weather turns make sure to get any maintenance done in those areas. That may include tree trimming/removing branches from any trees that overhang fencing or livestock housing , as well as grading/leveling any uneven spots where fence posts may end up in unstable ground.

n Make sure any livestock that are able to, have identification on them. Horses, sheep, goats, and even pigs can have a pet ID with your phone number secured onto a halter or collar.

n Take regular photos of each of your livestock so that if they do become lost, you have a recent photo that you can use on lost ads and to use to prove ownership when reclaiming your pet from a person or the shelter.

During fall and winter

n Make regular walks around your property line and fencing to check for any damage. Make sure that any electric fencing is working and any wire or wooden fences have no breaks.

n Take a census, at least once a day, to make sure every one of your animals is accounted for (and that gates and doors are secure). The sooner you realize one animal is missing, the better the chance you have of finding that animal.

n Repair and reinforce housing and fencing as soon as weakness or damage is identified. Having supplies on hand so that you can repair or replace a fence rail ASAP can mean the difference between having a safe animal or a missing animal.

If you do lose livestock

n As soon as you notice one of your animals is missing, get the word out to neighbors. Livestock are often found just down the road or a few houses down from their home.

n Notify the humane society (360-692-6977) that your animal is missing. Or email RJohnson@kitsap-humane.org with your name, address, area the animal was lost from, your phone number and detailed description and/or photo of your missing animal.

n Add a lost/missing post on the Facebook group, Kitsap Lost and Found Pet Search, or your own Facebook page.

— Rebekah Johnson is events and outreach manager for the Kitsap Humane Society.

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