A disaster can be tough on people and often tougher on pets, whether they’re natural disasters or made-made. With a little advanced planning, you can keep the four-legged members of your family safe and sound.
Before the evacuation order is issued
1. Secure pet identification. Make sure that all dogs and cats have a collar with ID tags attached. For a more enduring solution, have your pet microchipped for permanent identification. Verify that your current emergency phone and cell phone numbers are listed on the ID tag or registered with the microchip-monitoring agency. If you adopted your pet and he was already chipped, you can transfer his microchip registration to your name by providing his adoption contract.
2. Vaccinate and spay/neuter. In an emergency, your pet may need to be housed with other animals in crowded conditions; most shelters that accept pets require that they’re up-to-date on all vaccinations. If you have not already done so, spay or neuter your pet as well. Fixing your dog or cat is not only vital to her long-term health and to reducing pet overpopulation – many emergency shelters require that animals be fixed.
3. Proof of ownership. If you become separated from your pet, you may be required to show proof of ownership to re-claim it when the evacuation is over. Keep a copy of your pet’s license registration, vaccination record or similar documentation with you. To help prove ownership, keep a picture of you with your pet that is focused on your her identifying characteristics.
4. Medical records. If you have a dog or cat with special needs or a medical condition, obtain copies of relevant medical records from your veterinarian – particularly prescriptions – to provide to a temporary caretaker. Keep all current medications and records in an easily accessible, waterproof container or bag.
5. Evacuation plan. Where will you go with your pet when disaster strikes? American Red Cross shelters do not allow animals except for certified service dogs. Check beforehand whether friends, family, veterinarians or kennels outside your area will temporarily house your pet. You can find pet-friendly hotels on the internet at PetTravelCenter.com or Pet Friendly Hotels. Ask your local animal control agency or FEMA office where dogs and cats can be housed safely during an evacuation.
6. Contingency plan. Let your landlord or trusted neighbors know that you have a pet and ask if they will help care for it if you are not home when the disaster strikes. Leave emergency contact and cell phone numbers for the caretaker. Consider purchasing and posting an emergency decal on the front window or door of your home to alert any first responders that an animal may have been left inside.
7. Practice beforehand. In an emergency, you may have to temporarily confine your pet in a crate or carrier. If your pet is unused to such confinement, practice placing your pet in the crate or carrier a few times each month so that your he will cooperate in an emergency. Consider EvacSaks for your smaller pets instead of a crate or carrier, which saves space when you have to pack up and leave.
Creating a pet emergency kit
- Food and water. Two weeks’ of your pet’s food. For canned food, purchase single-serving pop-top cans in case refrigeration is not available during or after the disaster. For kibble, place in an airtight container or watertight bag so that it doesn’t get wet and spoil.
- Feeding bowls and cleaning supplies. Pack collapsible or disposable bowls, as well as dish soap and towels for cleaning.
- Medication. At least two weeks’ supply of prescription medications and preventatives (e.g., flea, heartworm).
- Sanitation. Two weeks’ worth of kitty litter and a scoop, or poop bags and a pooper scooper. Include disposable gloves, rags or towels and disinfectant to clean out your pet’s crate or kennel.
- Comfort. Don’t forget bedding, blankets and toys.
- Safety. Collar, leash, muzzle, stake out, etc., as applicable.
- Pet first-aid kit. Bandages of assorted sizes, cotton swabs, antiseptic, first-aid cream, tweezers and small scissors.
During extreme weather, bring your pets indoors or into an otherwise safe place. It may be necessary to separate your pets if they become reactive. Upon your return home, make sure your home and surrounding areas are clear of any debris which could injure your pet before releasing her in your home or out in your yard.
While a natural disaster can be an extraordinarily stressful event for humans and animals alike, you can help maximize your pet’s chance for survival with some basic preparation.
For disaster preparedness tips for horses, fish, birds, snakes and other pets, download the American Veterinary Medical Association’s free guide, “Saving the Whole Family,” or one from the Animal Rescue Corps.
What plans do you have in place to ensure the well being of your pet in case of emergency?