Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners

By Lexiann Grant

Disasters come in all types and sizes, from local mishaps such as industrial fires or chemical spills, to regional or larger weather disasters like flooding, tornadoes, ice storms and hurricanes.

Every household should have a disaster plan for situations that require evacuation or remaining in your home. And that plan should include your pet.

First, if you have to leave, never leave your pets behind as this puts them in extreme danger. It’s important to know in advance where you can go with your animal companion – a relative’s, a pet-friendly hotel, or a kennel where you can board your pet until it’s safe to return home.

If you are away when disaster strikes, have a neighbor lined up who is willing to get your pets out and to safety. Provide them with keys or access ahead of time, as well as detailed instructions on your pets’ care, where their supplies are and where to take them.

Although the Red Cross website notes that health regulations prohibit pets in emergency shelters, some areas are beginning to set up disaster relief shelters for people with pets. Consult your local chapter for further information.

Make sure that your pet’s ID is current, whether a tag or microchip registry, and that your cell phone number and away-from-home contact information is also available. Carry a current picture of your pet in your wallet in case you get separated.

Keep a doggy (or kitty) survival kit ready to grab and go. This kit should contain such items as:

* Water and non-perishable pet food for about a week

* Portable or disposable bowls

* Medications; copies of medical records including rabies certificate

* Extra leash and collar, possibly glow-in-the dark or lighted

* Dog license

* Collapsible crate; bed or blanket

*Quick clean-up items like paper towels and pooper-scooper bags

* Small bag of kitty litter, pan and scoop

* Sweater for thin-coated dogs in cold climates

* A toy to help pass the time

Also consider a pet first aid kit. These pet-specific kits can be purchased from the Red Cross or pet-supply stores, or you can put one together yourself with your veterinarian’s advice and suggestions from Linda Cole’s informative article found here.

Your pet survival kit should also be readily available for times when you have to take shelter in your home. For severe weather like tornadoes, make sure there is space and you have provisions in your home shelter to care for your pet until the danger ends. Longer events, like power outages or blizzards, require additional plans to keep your pets warm.

In extreme situations, it may be necessary to pre-arrange for a relative or neighbor to take care of your pet until you are reunited. As much as you might not want to think about it, a pet owner’s disaster plans should include a person who would take your animal(s) in the event of your death. Include this information in your will, but also give it to a trusted friend or relative in advance.

Several organizations offer pet disaster preparedness and planning information online. Search the web pages of such groups as the ASPCA, the Red Cross, NOAA,, FEMA, and the AVMA.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use your pet emergency plan, but if you do, knowing that you – and your furry family members – are prepared, should give you more peace of mind if disaster strikes.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

1 comment:

  1. Southern California FIRE & EMS believes wholeheartedly that disaster preparedness for pets is often overlooked and more education and awareness is needed to drive the message home.

    We have heard heartbreaking stories of pet owners leaving their pets behind after a disaster only to come home to find their pet deceased. There were many instances of this occurring during the Katrina disaster and all could have been avoided.

    As a former medical standby company, we have recently changed our operations to deal exclusively with disaster preparedness here in the Los Angeles region. With so many people now concerned more than ever, we have also included pet first aid classes to the many classes we have begun to assemble.

    We would like to give a shout out to the authors of this blog. Kudos to you!!

    Southern California FIRE & EMS


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