There was a time when pets were not included in emergency disaster plans, but Hurricane Katrina changed that. Who can forget the images of dogs standing stranded on rooftops and porches surrounded by water? Who can forget the countless news reports of people who refused to evacuate because they wouldn’t leave their beloved pets behind, and none of the shelters would allow them?
No one likes to think about natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados or wildfires – but thinking in advance can mean the difference between life and death for you and your pet(s). No matter where in the world you live, it makes sense to be prepared and have a plan in place in case of a disaster. Plan ahead to take your pet(s)with you in the event of an emergency evacuation. If it’s not safe for you to stay in your home, then it’s not safe for your pets, either. Many times, people leave pets behind because they think they will only be gone overnight or for a couple of days, but you just never know. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, people weren’t able to return to their homes to get their pets, and many of them were separated for months. Some were never reunited.
Here are some ways to plan ahead:
- Have a destination in mind. Don’t wait for an emergency evacuation order before you think about where you’ll be going, and don’t rely on emergency shelters. Most emergency shelters are not equipped to handle animals and won’t allow them for health reasons. Have a list handy of pet-friendly hotels, or friends and relatives far enough away from your home to be outside of the affected area. Have a list of kennels in case boarding is your only alternative.
- Make sure that all of your pets have updated identification. Dogs should have collars with I.D. tags, and the best case scenario is for all of your pets to be microchipped in case you get separated (many rescue groups do this for a nominal fee). Make sure the information on the I.D. tags is current, and that the microchip company database has your most recent contact information. Put your cell phone number on I.D. tags in case you can’t get back to your house to check messages.
- Have an emergency pack put together beforehand. Keep it someplace where you can get your hands on it in a hurry. The ASPCA suggests that your kit contain the following items:
- 3-7 days of food per animal. (rotate the food every 2 months)
- Bottled water. (rotate every 2 months)
- Food and water bowls
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Garbage bags
- Extra harnesses/collar/leashes
- A blanket
- Recent photos of your pet(s) in case you get separated and need to make a LOST poster
- Toys, including chew toys
- A pet first aid kit (which should contain a triple antibiotic ointment, saline eye wash, styptic pencil, bandage material, scissors, tweezers & your vet’s phone number)
- A two week supply of any medications that your pets take.
- Copies of rabies certificates and vaccination records (inside of a waterproof envelope or container)
4. If possible, take a crate or carrier.
You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Flashlight, batteries, duct tape, cell phone, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.
The HSUS has brochures online available for download to help you plan for the needs of your pets, horses, and livestock during an emergency.
Remember that your pet’s behavior may change during or after an emergency. Your pet may be stressed or pick up on your anxiety. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely.