The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives. In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.
- Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters. Service animals which assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of an evacuation, so plan ahead.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with your other disaster information and supplies. If you are alerted to an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
- Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets during a disaster. Animal shelters may be overwhelmed caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
- HELP YOUR PET TO BE IDENTIFIED
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar that is securely fastened and have identification tags containing up-to-date information. Attach to the collar or tag the phone number and address of your temporary shelter OR of a friend or relative outside of the disaster area.
ORGANIZE A PORTABLE PET DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you'll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (a duffle bag or covered trash containers, for example).
Include in your 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.
- Supplies to include food, potable water, bowls, first aid kit, 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 foster or board your pets.
- Pet bed or toys if easily transportable.
DISASTER HITS – WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
During a disaster, pets often panic. Animals do have instincts about severe weather changes and will most likely isolate themselves if they are afraid.
- Bring your pets inside immediately to keep them from running off. Do not 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.
- Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes.
- Feed animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
Take the precautions below if you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home:
- Confine your pet to a safe area inside
- Place a notice outside of your home in a visible place telling others what pets are in the home and where they can be located
- Leave your contact and veterinarian’s information
- Use special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given.
- Cage birds and cover cages with a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.
- In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the cage and warm up the car before placing birds inside
- During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the bird’s feathers periodically
- Provide slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content inside of putting water inside the carrier during transport.
- Have leg bands and a photo for identification.
- Transport snakes in a pillowcase initially; when reaching the evacuation site, move the snakes to more secure housing.
- Carry food with you if your snakes require frequent feedings.
- Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad.
- To transport house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.
- Use secure carriers to transport small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.).
- Take supplies such as bedding materials, food, bowls, and water bottles
- Plan ahead and pre-pack food, water, and hay for your horse.
- Keep a recent photograph of your horse and a copy of the bill of sale in your emergency kit.
- Make arrangements now to trailer or move your horse in case of a disaster.
AFTER A DISASTER
Planning and preparation will help you survive the disaster, but your home may be a very different place afterward, whether you have taken shelter at home or elsewhere.
- Don't allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
- Keep pets on leashes or in carriers inside the house while you assess the damage. If your house is damaged, they could escape and become lost.
- Lease your pets when they go outside during the first few days after the disaster. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost. Also, snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood areas. Downed power lines are a hazard.
- Watch pets closely and be patient with them after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
February 3, 2010