With the current high fire dangers, the hurricanes on the East Coast, flooding and the on-going threat of earthquakes, it’s a good reminder that we need to be prepared for a disaster, and that includes for our pets.
Every year we hear so many sad stories about the dogs and cats left in the aftermath of one disaster or another, but you can avoid this with some planning, so if the worst happens, you and your pets can survive.
The following check list can be printed and used to help you get all the different things ready for your pets in case you need to leave your home. Most of these items could be stored in a large tub with a lid along side of your own human disaster kit:
Have identification on your dogs and cats with your cell phone number on it so if you are evacuated you can be reached.
Be sure to have a car charger and the proper cords to charge your phone in case of a loss of electricity.
Microchip your pets in case the identification is lost.
Have all your animals current on vaccines.
Carry or have available photographs on your cell phone to help identify your pets if they should get lost.
Have one cat carrier per cat in a location that is easy to get to in case you had to leave in a hurry.
Have crates for dogs in case you have keep them confined (be sure to work on introducing your dog(s) to crates so they are comfortable in one before a crisis.
Have leashes for your dogs in a location that is easy to access.
Have at least a week’s supply of dry food for each animal, but also have the same amount in canned food in case of a water disaster. Be sure to store dry food in an air and watertight container and to change the food every so often so it remains fresh. Having a supply of food in several locations, including in your car, is also important in case one source is not accessible. Be sure to have a can opener if the canned food doesn’t have pop tops.
Litter for you cats and a couple of temporary boxes that can be stored flat. Cardboard shirt boxes (like the ones given at department stores) work really well for this.
Having lots of clean water for drinking is probably the most important component of all. This is especially true if a disaster happens during a hot time of year. Store water in your car and in a couple of locations in the home since some areas might not be accessible due to the type of disaster. You may also want to have a water purifying kit on hand if you don’t have room to store lots of water.
A first aide kit, and any medications for each pet should be stored together.
Several towels (which can be used for both humans and animals).
Where will you and your pets go if you are evacuated?
Many people have not really thought about where they would go with their pets if a disaster strikes their area. As seen with Hurricane Harvey and Irma and numerous wild fires, there is often little time to plan—be pro-active and think about where you could go if you only had a short time to leave. After you have decided on several different possibilities, consider the following:
Leave as early as you can with your pets so you have time to secure them.
Take your pets with you even if you are only planning to be gone a short time—anything can happen and you might not be able to get back to your animals.
You may have to leave your pets somewhere while you get yourself and family members settled, so be sure to have a printed out list of your animals’ medical needs, feeding schedule, veterinarians, phone contacts, and a list of any behavior problems in case you have to leave them in a boarding facility or with someone else.
Check on local motels to ensure they would take your pets if you had to stay in a motel
Be sure to know the phone numbers and locations of your local animal shelters in case you are asked to leave your animals there, or you become separated from them.
If for some reason you were not home during a disaster, pre-arrange with a neighbor for them to take care of your animals until you can get back home. Leave your neighbor the contacts and needs list for your pets, a key to get in your home, and the location of your pet disaster kits. If your neighborhood should need to be evacuated, plan where you would meet your neighbor to retrieve your pets.
What to do if you stay in your home
Have a pre-determined area where you can gather with your family and pets.
Be sure to keep your dogs on leashes if your home or fencing is not secure during or after the disaster.
Cats can also be kept on a harness and leash, but be sure to introduce them to these before you actually need to use them. You would not want to add more anxiety to the situation by trying to place a harness on your cat during a very stressful time.
Use crates and kennels to keep your pets secure when you are unable to use leashes
Have a list of the number and types of animals posted on your front and rear doors for emergency crews in case you had to leave your pets for any reason-- but please do try to take them if you are evacuating and your own life is in danger.
As you can see, there are many things to think about before a disaster hits. This should give you the basics on what to do and how to be pro-active about keeping you and your pets safe and together during a natural or man-made disaster.
For more information about what to do before and after a disaster, please visit the Humane Society of the United States website: http://www.hsus.org/hsus_field/hsus_disaster_center/disaster_preparedness_for_pets/