Severe weather can and does happen throughout the year in different parts of the world and there are many different types of natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, forest fires and floods. The natural disaster can cause ancillary issues including short- and long-term loss of electricity, property destruction and consequent loss of shelter, levee and dam breaches, road blockage and loss of communications facilities. As we saw during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when thousands of companion animals were left behind and abandoned by fleeing owners, and most recently with Hurricane Harvey in Houston, the consequences of natural disasters can have disastrous and fatal consequences for our fur babies.
Although it is beyond the scope of this article, let’s not forget that war and civil strife also cause frequently undocumented and forgotten terror, trauma and death to zoo animals, farm animals, animals in the wild and domestic pets in war torn areas of the world.
Here is your step-by-step disaster preparation guide on putting together your own emergency plan. Or, how to protect your pets when Mother Nature strikes!
First Step: Who are you responsible for and what are their issues?
The first thing to do is determine who will be primarily responsible for taking care of your fur babies in the event of a disaster. Generally that will be one of the adults in the household who can drive and is very familiar with the needs of each fur baby.
The next thing to do is accurately determine if your fur baby has any special needs that might make it more difficult to get her to safety or keep her safe until the disaster is over. For example, does she:
- have age-related hearing or vision loss;
- suffer from impaired mobility;
- need special medication, food or care (e.g. allergy or insulin shots; seizure medication; pancreatitis diet;
- suffer from panic attacks, separation anxiety or fear loud noises (e.g. thunder; howling winds);
- know how to swim – not all cats and dogs do and even if they know how to, they may not be used to it;
- get along with any other animals in the house if you have to put them all in the car together or into a small room during the worst of the storm (e.g. into a cellar in the event of a tornado or a small, windowless interior room in the event of a hurricane).
Gimme Shelter! (For all you Rolling Stones fans…)
If you are able to stay in your home during the emergency, be sure to bring all your animals inside at the first sign of the severe weather. DO NOT LEAVE ANY ANIMALS TIED UP OR IN SMALL ENCLOSURES OUTSIDE. Animals sense oncoming bad weather and may run or hide out of fear so be sure to get them inside immediately before they get lost.
Before you are faced with the need to evacuate, identify your local evacuation options in the event you are unable to stay in your own home:
- Identify local evacuation shelters and/or hotels/motels which will accept pets and ask:
- what type of pets are accepted (e.g. dogs, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice/rats, rabbits, snakes, ferrets, birds, potbelly pigs etc.);
- how many pets the facility will accept; and
- whether you must crate each pet for the duration of the stay.
- Find out what the requirements are to bring your pet(s) in the event you do need to evacuate:
- Do you need to pre-register?
- Provide proof of residency within the evacuation zone?
- Have medical and current vaccination records for each pet?
- Figure out the safest route from your home to your intended evacuation location.
- Make sure you have cash on hand, your car is available and gassed up for a quick get-away. Remember that when the electricity goes most ATMs and gas pumps won’t work and those that are working will have extremely long lines and may run out of supplies.
Help! I’ve lost my fur baby!
Increase your chances of not compounding the disaster with the heartbreak of losing your fur baby and not knowing what happened to her by getting your dogs and cats micro-chipped well before anything bad happens and make sure each pet is wearing identification at all time.
What to Include in your Fur Baby’s Go-Bag or Emergency Kit
Regardless of whether you are staying put the weather the storm or evacuating, you will want to have the following items in your fur baby’s emergency kit:
- Food:two-week supply and a manual can opener
- Water:two-week supply (1/2 Gallon of water/day for larger dogs)
- Bowls: for food and water
- Portable Carrier/Crate
- Large enough for pet to stand and turn around in.
- Each pet should be in a separate crate.
- Collar, tag, harness and leash
- Microchip registration information
- Current photo of every pet with you to prove that you are your pet’s owner and in the event you need to prepare posters or put her on social media.
- First Aid Kit
- Roller bandages
- Antibiotic ointment
- Medical records (stored in a waterproof container or plastic zip bag)
- Cat Litter, Litter Box and Litter Scooper
- Cleaning Supplies
- Paper towels
- Newspapers in case your pups need to do their business inside
- Plastic trash bags
- Hand sanitizer
- Plastic poop bags
Prevention, in this case, is worth at least a pound of cure. Making and implementing your pet emergency plan will take a good deal of stress out of an inherently stressful situation and help you minimize any adverse effects the natural disaster might have on your companion animals. They will, after all, be a great source of comfort to you as you deal with the aftermath of whatever Mother Nature just threw at you.
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