Disaster Preparedness for Pets
May 13th is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day and with that comes a reminder that everyone needs a Disaster Preparedness Plan. All too often, people think, it won't, or can't happen to them but if watching the evening news hasn't shown us the error of our ways, nothing will. Disaster can strike – without warning – anytime, anywhere.
Another thing we should have learned by now is that disaster affects every person and animal in its wake. It crosses every boundary there is, geographic, socioeconomic; it knows no age, color, or creed.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for preparing for disaster with your four-legged and furry friends in mind.
Part of preparedness is knowing what to be prepared for…
What types of emergencies are likely to occur in your area? Do hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, blizzards or wildfires affect your area? If you are unsure what disasters are common in your area, contact your local emergency management agency for more information. Also, consider other emergency situations, such as house fires or gas leaks.
Find a safe place...
According to the FEMA website, you should never leave your pets behind in an emergency (unless your own life is at risk). Remember that though these animals once survived in the wild, we have domesticated them and for generation upon generation we have trained them to overcome or ignore these natural instincts. If you must evacuate, take your pet with you. However, many shelters do not accept pets, so planning is again, essential! Start with a list of options in areas surrounding your home (up to 100 mi radius). Options include friends or families that are out of harm's way, veterinary clinics or pet boarding facilities, pet-friendly hotels, and animal shelters. Whatever you decide, make sure you thoroughly understand any restrictions or rules. For example, many boarding facilities require a copy of veterinary records before accepting your pet. Additionally, you will need to have a portable kennel for each pet.
No matter where your pet ends up, he/she needs to have identification. It is always wise to have a tag on the collar with contact information in case you're separated unavoidably. An extra tag with a separate contact person outside of your area is a great idea simply because during an emergency, it is common for phones to be out or for circuits to be too busy to get through for days or weeks, including cell phone service.
Another method of identifying pets is micro-chipping. The American Humane Association estimates that about 17% of all lost dogs and only 2% of all lost cats ever make it back to their owner. Nearly 10 million pets are euthanized each year because they cannot be reunited with their owner. The American Humane Association recommends using I.D. Tags and microchips and always keeping the information current.
If you do not register the chip, it will not help your pet be found.
Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit…
Just like any other emergency preparedness kit, a very important item to include is a basic first aid kit. This should include at minimum, some bandages and flexible wrap, a blood-stopper, an antibiotic ointment, an antiseptic spray, thermometer, sterile gloves, and scissors.
It is very important to have at least a couple of day's worth of food and clean water for your pet, just like it is for you and your family. Don't forget to rotate stored food every month or two when your Emergency Kit is just sitting. If you are packing canned food, be sure it has a pop-top or you have a manual can opener with the kit.
- Keep a couple of trash bags handy and collapsible or disposable feeding dishes or bowls made for travel.
- An extra collar or harness and leash and some chew toys and snacks are a must as well as a blanket and/or bed and any medications required and always keep recent photos just in case of separation.
- Be aware of local laws that might require you to have some form of waste disposal such as bags and/or scoopers.
- If you live in or your “safe destination” is in a colder climate, keep a sweater or jacket and possibly boots for your pet. Snow, ice and salt are harsh on paws.
- Another consideration is the stress/anxiety of the emergency situation and travel on your pet. Consider a calming or anxiety relief treatment for your pet.
- Be sure that your house has an emergency “Save Our Pets” sticker on every door and at least one window on each side of the house. Emergency workers don't know and you might not be home or conscious to tell them.
Don't wait until disaster strikes to think about what to do. You may literally only have a minute to worry about your own safety and that of your pet(s).
Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Originally posted June of 2011 - revised August 2015, April 2017
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