Nobody knows when a disaster is going to strike. Whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or something smaller like a house fire, it is a good idea to be prepared. We have all heard the horror stories of the tens of thousands of pets that had to be left behind as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the south. Our hearts went out to the pets as well as their owners whom they may never see again. Although in this area we are less likely to be hit by a hurricane, that doesn’t mean we are immune from all disasters, both natural and man-made.
Being prepared is the most important part of dealing with a disaster. Planning ahead and knowing what needs to be done can save not only your family’s lives, but your pet’s lives as well. The following are some tips for preparing for a disaster:
1. Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets –
- Contact hotels and motels outside of your immediate area to see if pets are accepted and if there are any restrictions on species, size, or number. Ask if a “no pet” policy could be waived in an emergency situation. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places where you and your pets can go.
- Ask friends, relatives, or others outside of the effected area if they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet they would probably be more comfortable together, but be prepared to separate them if necessary.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24 hours phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter for foster care or pets in a disaster.
2. Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit
- Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can’t escape.
- Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
- Food, portable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board or foster your pets.
- Pet beds and toys, if easily portable.
3. Know What to Do As a Disaster Approaches
- Often, warnings are issued hours, even days in advance. At the first hint of a disaster, act to protect your pet.
- Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
- Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment’s notice.
- Bring all pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
- Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification.
- You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor or relative would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location.
4. Caring For Other Pets in an Emergency
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing the birds inside.
- Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snake requires frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.
- Pocket pets such as hamsters, gerbils, etc. should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
Whether you are in the midst of a hurricane, tornado, mudslide, fire, chemical spill, flooding or tsunamis, if you must evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. By making arrangements ahead of time, you will help to ensure the safety of your beloved pets.
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