In the event of a disaster, it is important to not only have a plan for the humans in your household, but also for the other members of your family – pets! Many types of disaster might require evacuation, and in even more extreme situations, being displaced for a short to extended amount of time. If you do not have a pet-friendly plan mapped out for a disaster, you may find that you will be forced to leave your furry best friend behind. And trust me; Fido is not going to be very pleased with that situation. Even something as simple as ensuring you have a pet tracker, can reduce the headaches and heartaches that follow and natural disaster.
Significant animal issues were experienced, sadly, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Citizens who waited until the last minute to evacuate and were taken by helicopter or rescue boats were not allowed to bring their pets, and the Superdome did not allow pets either. It was estimated that 8,000 animals were rescued after Katrina, and 600,000 pets were killed or left without shelter. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act was passed in 2006. This act requires states in the event of a disaster to seek FEMA assistance for the care of pets as part of their resident evacuation plans.
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina helped us to see that we must plan ahead for our pets’ safety in preparation for a disaster. There are quite a few measures that you can take to ensure that you keep your furry friend protected through a disaster:
Keep extra pet supplies in your emergency kit, enough for them to survive for 72 hours. This should include pet food, a can opener, bottled water, veterinary records, medications, cat litter and pan, food dishes, and a first aid kit. Also in their kit, keep an information sheet with details such as their name and any possible behavioral problems. Have a pet carrier and leashes on hand; pets may be just as frightened in a disaster situation and want to take off. Be sure that you have a pet tag that’s up to date too.
Make shelter plans
Make sure that all vaccinations are up to date, and you have all the proper documentation proving it, so you can easily board your animal. Research your options on where to house your pet in the event that you cannot take them with you in an evacuation. Call your local animal shelter or public health emergency department for information on disaster protocols. Make sure to call shelters that may be outside of your local area, in case closer ones are full or closed. Have your pet’s emergency kit ready to give to the shelter in the event that you are not able to take your pet to the shelter with you, and may not be able to return immediately.
During a disaster
If there is no evacuation necessary, and you must shelter-in-place, bring pets inside. Pets often become anxious in severe weather and weather changes, and may act uncharacteristically, so make sure to be aware of this. Dogs and cats who are typically amicable may not get along, so be sure to separate the two. Keep a secure leash on hand in case your animal needs to be restrained if they get too rambunctious. Knowing pet first aid can help save their lives in a disaster. If you are interested in becoming certified in pet first aid, contact your local American Red Cross for details of classes.
Pets are especially unlikely to survive when left home alone in a disaster, so only in the direst situation, or if your life is threatened, should you leave them at home alone. In the event that you have no other choice but to leave your pet at home, make sure to leave them inside in a confined area. Remove the toilet lid so that there is water provided for them, and leave a note in a visible area with contact information. In the event that emergency first responders come upon your home and find your pet, they will then have the information to get in contact with you.
So, when you get home tonight from work, set aside a few minutes to do the research and come up with a plan to ensure your pets stay safe through any disaster! You can find more great tips on disaster planning for pets and family from The Humane Society.