Looking Out for You - A Family, Home, and Auto Portection Update

Volume 10, Issue 1

Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your pets if a disaster were to strike in your area? You may already be sufficiently prepared to ensure the safety of your family during a natural or man-made disaster. But do you also have a plan in place for your pets? If you have no evacuation plan for your companion animals, you might be reducing their chances of survival.

Many pet owners may assume that their pets can remain behind with some food and water, and will adjust to the situation until the event is over, or they may think they can drop off their pets at a local animal shelter for the duration. However, if abandoned for an indefinite amount of time during a tornado, hurricane, fire, flood, earthquake, or other disaster, your pets could be in harm's way. In addition, animal shelters get filled to capacity quickly and may be unable to accept your pets. Preparation in advance can reduce the risk of injury or harm that could come to your companion animals if a disaster hits.

Actions You Should Take and Pet Disaster Kits

The following are things you should do in advance and items that are essential to include in your pet disaster kit should you have to evacuate your home:

  • Collar/ID tags. Make sure your animals are wearing their collars and ID tags with phone numbers (cell, home) and your address. Amid the chaos of a disaster, your pet could accidentally escape. Should this happen, pets wearing collars with tags have a better chance of being returned to owners. For cats, use break-away collars that slip over the cat's head and easily divide in half if caught on something. You may want to consider microchipping your pets for a more permanent identification.
  • Store current photos of your pets on your cell phone. This may make it easier to reunite you with your animals if you are separated from them during an evacuation.
  • At least a week's supply of dry and/or canned food and pure water. Keep the dry food in an airtight and waterproof container. During a disaster, try to feed your animals their regular diet as close to normal feeding times as you can. Be sure to pack treats and favorite toys to help minimize the stress on your pets in strange environments that might have smaller spaces than what they are used to.

    Never allow your animals to drink flood water or any other water sources that could be contaminated during a disaster. If a boil-water warning is issued in your area, that means tap water is unsuitable for both people and animals to drink. Remember, if you are drinking purified water during a disaster, your animals should be, too.

  • Pet medications. If your animal is on medication, pack a back-up supply. In case you have no electricity or access to a refrigerator, store your pet's medication in a portable ice chest. Red Cross shelters are usually stocked with ice, should you run out.
  • Animal carriers, leashes, and harnesses. For transporting a cat safely and securely, you may want to consider an Evacsak, which takes up much less space than a traditional cat carrier. For dog evacuation, use both a harness and collar with leash to secure your dog.
  • Store small trash bags or doggie waste bags, and disposable litter boxes, a scoop, and litter.

Safe Site Alternatives

Identify several safe sites ahead of time to place your animals should you have to evacuate your home. These could include boarding kennels, veterinary clinics with boarding space, and grooming facilities. Your friends and extended family members may also be able to help out.

If you plan to avoid separation from your pets, look into pet-friendly hotels, motels, and inns that accept animals. Some establishments may not ordinarily allow animals but may make exceptions during a disaster. Note that Red Cross evacuation shelters do not accept animals, other than seeing-eye dogs and other recognized service dogs.

Make sure you know where the animal shelters are in your area. During a disaster, shelters may be unable to house displaced animals for long due to limits on space. If you accidentally become separated from your animals, you will need to search for your pets at local shelters as soon as you are able to.

Emergency Planning

Check to see if your veterinarian stays open during a disaster in case your pet needs emergency treatment. If not, research animal hospitals in your community that do remain open under such circumstances.

It is also important to coordinate disaster planning with your neighbors so that someone can check in on your animals if you are away from home or on vacation. File a permission slip with your veterinarian authorizing a neighbor to get necessary emergency treatment for your pet if you are unable to be reached during a disaster. If a pet-sitter usually cares for your animals while you are away, set up a disaster plan for the evacuation and stewardship of your pets in your absence.

Advance safety planning for companion animals will ensure their well-being during and after a disaster strikes. Your pets may be frightened by such an ordeal, but by being prepared, you can help to comfort them and reduce the stress they may experience.

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