It breaks my heart to see families and defenseless animals endure a disaster. I’m hoping my post will help you and your family before, during and after a disaster.
May 14th is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. Prior to Huricane Katrina, rescuers would often help pets when they could, but now there are state and federally organized efforts among veterinary and other dedicated workers specifically aimed at pet rescue called the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC). But the first responders in major disasters are the citizens, and each of us can do things to help ourselves – and our pets – be prepared.
- Place collars with current ID information tags on your pets. Consider getting them microchipped. If you do get them chipped, make sure the information the microchip company has on file is current.
- Get a rescue alert sticker and write the number, species and names of pets. Also include the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Place it as near the front door as possible so that it is visible to rescuers. If you have time and do evacuate with your pets, write “EVACUATED” over the sticker. (Most pet stores have them, or you can order them online from the SPCA.)
- Map out your evacuation routes, and arrange for a safe haven. Not all animal shelters take owned pets, and not all hotels and motels accept pets. Local boarding facilities might be closed in a major emergency, so check around for places you can go outside your area.
- Create a buddy system or plan in case something happens while you are away from home. Find someone you can trust to take care of your pets, or get them out for you.
- Make up an emergency kit for your pets. (Just like with human kits, there are commercially available cat- and dog-oriented kits, but you can create your own.) A travelling kit should be kept as near the main exit as possible, and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. Things to include:
- Pet first-aid kit and guide book.
- 3 to 7 days’ worth of canned or dry food. Canned food will provide moisture and enable the pet to drink slightly less water. Either get the pop-top variety or include a manual can-opener in the kit. Any kind of food, and water, will eventually go bad, so remember to rotate perishables – including medications.
Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans, etc.), scoopable litter or paper toweling/shredded paper, and/or cage liners.
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant, like non-scented bleach. Disposable garbage bags.
Feeding dishes and water bowls. (There are a lot of options in the camping section – collapsible dishes and bottles, etc.)
- Extra collars/harnesses and leashes.
- Photocopies or a USB drive of medical records, a photo of each pet in case you need to make “Lost” posters, and a two-week supply of any required medications in a waterproof container. Medications do expire so remember to rotate then out before they go bad.
- At least 7 days’ worth of bottled water.
- Sturdy travelling bag, carrier or crate. It is best to have one for each pet as the anxiety of an emergency can make even the most docile pet behave unpredictably. Label each carrier with the pet’s name, your name and contact information. Cats can be transported in a pillowcase for short periods if necessary.
- Flashlight, extra batteries.
- Toys, especially for young animals. Chew toys for dogs.
- You can call your local SPCA, Humane Society, or NARSC office for further information and advice. (Website links are below.)
- Always bring pets inside at the first sign of a storm, wildfire, flood or other disaster.
- Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes.
- Separate dogs and cats, and keep smaller “pocket” pets away from dogs and cats.
- If you do have to evacuate, NEVER leave a pet chained outdoors. They are not likely to survive, and you are not likely to find them again if they do. If you absolutely cannot bring your pets with you, keep them in a safe area inside with food and plenty of water. Take the toilet tank lid off, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they have access to water if you’re gone much longer than anticipated. Put a sign outside stating how many and which pets are inside, a contact number where you can be reached, and the name and phone number of your veterinarian.
- For the first several days afterwards, keep your pets leashed and close by.
- Their behavior may be altered by stress and anxiety, so keep careful watch on them and separate particularly anxious individuals to a safe space if necessary.
- Look for lost pets at local shelters, and operational bases of state and federal rescue organizations.
- Calling 211 will confidentially put you in touch with various emergency services, including aid in locating pets lost in an emergency and caring for them after a disaster. Check the website (link below) to see if there are 211 services in your area.