Emergency Planning for Pet Owners

March 15, 2013 by | 1 Comment

If you love your furry friends as much as I do, it’s important to plan for their well-being and safety in an emergency just like you do for your own.

Few of us can forget the images of pets struggling to survive in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The lesson came quickly and harshly, and animal welfare in an emergency took a quantum leap forward as a result. Today, we all understand the importance of preparing for our pets, but few of us know where to start. Let me help you with that.

Take some time to prepare for emergency scenarios tailored to your location. Every pet owner should have a grab-and-go plan for evacuating a home quickly and some locations may even require a plan for extended absences. Here are some tips from the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States:

Get a Rescue Alert Window Sticker that lets emergency workers and others know how many pets are inside your home. Stickers are free from the ASPCA and from some pet stores or veterinarians.

Make an emergency supply and travel kit that is easy to carry. It should include:

  • Pet first-aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic cream, instant cold pack, gauze, alcohol wipes, sting relief, scissors, blanket and tweezers.
  • 3-7 days of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months).
  • Disposable litter trays and litter (aluminum roasting pans are the right size).
  • Liquid disinfectant soap.
  • Garbage bags for clean-up.
  • Food dishes.
  • Extra collar and leash.
  • Waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires.
  • Bottled water for at least 7 days.
  • A traveling carrier, ideally one for each pet.
  • Flashlight.
  • Blanket (useful for scooping up a fearful pet).
  • Recent photos of your pets (in case you become seperated and need to make “Lost” posters).
  • Especially for cats: Pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter.
  • Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys, chew toys, and enough cage liner to last a week.

Arrange a safe haven and caregivers. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets, so don’t leave them behind. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it is imperative to make an evacuation plan for them ahead of time including identifying hotels outside of your immediate area that accept pets and asking friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet. Establish a permanent caregiver should something happen to you.

If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. If you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation are announced:

  • Keep bug-out bag handy or load it into your vehicle.
  • Make sure pets are wearing tags with up-to-date identification.
  • Bring pets indoors. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
  • Call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone at the first sign of disaster.
  • If emergency officials recommend that you stay in your home, determine which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear of hazards such as windows and flying debris.
  • Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones.
  • Fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises.
  • In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.

If you live in an area frequented by particular natural disasters, such as tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, be sure to plan accordingly.

  • Determine well in advance which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear of hazards such as windows, flying debris, etc.
  • Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones.
  • Access to a supply of fresh water is particularly important. In areas that may lose electricity, fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises.
  • In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.

If emergency officials recommend that you stay in your home, it’s crucial that you keep your pets and supplies close at hand. Your pets may become stressed during the in-house confinement, so you may consider crating them for safety and comfort.

The ASPCA also lists special considerations for other types of pets.

Special considerations for birds:

  • Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.
  • In cold weather, make certain you have a blanket over your pet’s cage. This may also help reduce the stress of traveling.
  • In warm weather, carry a spray bottle to periodically moisten your bird’s feathers.
  • Have recent photos available, and keep your bird’s leg bands on for identification.
  • If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels that you can change frequently.
  • Keep the carrier in as quiet an area as possible.
  • It is particularly imperative that birds eat on a daily basis, so purchase a timed feeder. If you need to leave your bird unexpectedly, the feeder will ensure his daily feeding schedule.
  • Items to keep on hand: Catch net, heavy towel, blanket or sheet to cover cage, cage liner.

Special considerations for reptiles:

  • A snake may be transported in a pillowcase, but you should have permanent and secure housing for him when you reach a safe place.
  • Take a sturdy bowl that is large for your pet to soak in. It’s also a good idea to bring along a heating pad or other warming device, such as a hot water bottle.
  • Lizards can be transported like birds (see above).

Special considerations for small animals:

  • Small animals, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs, should be transported in secure carriers with bedding materials, food and food bowls.
  • Items to keep on hand: Salt lick, extra water bottle, small hide box or tube, a week’s worth of bedding.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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