Our pets are important members of our families. Just like all members of a family, it is important to include them in our disaster preparation plans. The likelihood of a pet surviving a disaster depends largely on the planning done before a disaster occurs. The following steps will help to ensure you and your pets are ready if a disaster were to strike.
Assemble an animal emergency supply kit in the event you have to evacuate your home for an emergency. This kit should contain:
- Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets;
- Food. Three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container;
- Pet first aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs;
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash;
- Crate or other pet carrier;
- Sanitation materials to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs- litter box, newspapers, paper towels, garbage bags;
- A picture of you and your pet together in case you should be separated from your pet during an emergency; and
- Familiar items like toys or treats that may help reduce stress for your pet.
If you have to evacuate from your home, take your pet with you – you are responsible for the care of your pet! Most emergency shelters will not accept pets (with the exception of service animals) due to health reasons. Know which hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to. Choose a hotel that allows pets. If you plan to stay with family members or friends, be sure they can accommodate pets.
Some counties are planning temporary emergency animal shelter facilities, but not all are in place and should only be used as a last resort. Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or veterinarian to get advice and information on boarding your pet. Many of these facilities require your pet’s medical records. Make sure all vaccinations are current.
Contact your county emergency manager if they need to be aware of special needs you may have, such as assistance with evacuation if you possess a guide dog or other service animal. Service animals are allowed on all means of public transportation and in all human shelters.
If you must leave your pet at home, provide access to someone in advance so they can check in. Choose and use an ID method for each animal- micro-chipping, ID tags on collar, photos of you with your animal. This is extremely important if your animals become lost. Confine your pet to a safe area inside -- NEVER leave your pet chained outside! Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water. Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink. Place a notice outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your veterinarian.
If you are unable to evacuate with your pets, bring them inside immediately. Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes. Feed the animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm. Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
In the immediate post-incident period the focus for emergency workers will be human safety. When circumstances allow, there will be personnel trained in animal emergencies integrated into the local incident management structure to assist emergency workers and citizens with animal needs. These may include “rescue” (capture and transport to safety) of displaced animals, identificaton, treatment, temporary shelter and care, and reunification with owners.
In the first few days after a disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost. Check your yard for downed power lines, debris and displaced wildlife.
The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard with access to shelter and water.