New Pet Owner

Pet Emergency Preparedness

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Severe weather and natural disasters can occur year-round and, for cat and dog owners, storm safety involves some additional planning. When you have a pet, emergency preparedness becomes a great deal more complex.

Whether you live in a place where hurricanes are the danger, or you're more at risk from tornadoes and wildfires, the principles of pet emergency preparedness are basically the same:

  1. Make a pet evacuation plan. If you have to evacuate your home, you'll want your pets to go with you. If you don't have a car, find out if there are local emergency services organizations that will help you transport your pet.
    Research which evacuation shelters will allow you to bring your pets with you in an emergency, and find some additional pet-friendly shelters outside the immediate area in case you have to flee farther afield.
  2. Keep a full list of animal shelters, boarding facilities, and even hotels that accept pets during emergency evacuations. Think ahead and make contact with these places before disaster strikes so that you understand their emergency protocol.
    Remember that disasters are busy times for animal shelters, and having a complete list of emergency resources is a smart way to protect your pet. This way you'll have different options for places that can help your pet if and when you need it most!
  3. Identify your pet clearly. Make certain your pet's ID tags are current, and be prepared with medical tape and a permanent marker to label your pet's collar with the location of your emergency shelter.
    Pets should also be microchipped. That way any animal shelter or veterinarian with a scanner can identify your pet and learn how to get hold of you. Microchips, in contrast to tags, never fall off or become scuffed, marred, or otherwise unreadable! Also, be sure to keep your microchip contact information up to date and have an alternate contact listed for your pet to ensure that shelters and veterinarians know how to find you. If you need to evacuate, having an alternate contact listed on Fido or Fluffy's account may be critical to reuniting with them. Need to register your pet's microchip? Visit HomeAgain.com.

    Register now!

  4. Put together a pet emergency preparedness kit. This should include not only food, water, dishes, medication, and necessary supplies, such as leashes and litter, but also your pet's medical records.
    If you need to be away from home for an extended period of time and it becomes necessary to board your pets, having their medical records will help you find a place willing to take them.
  5. Make certain you have secure transport for your pet. If a carrier is impractical, then a good leash and harness will do.
    In an emergency, it will probably be harder to control your pet than usual. Animals may become frightened and aggressive and could endanger both of you by panicking or running away.

Some people think that when disaster strikes the best thing to do for their dog or cat is to turn them loose outside to take care of themselves. They're wrong. Most pets are unable to survive on their own under such conditions, and, even if they did, it might be impossible to ever find them again.

It is never a good idea to leave your pet at home during emergency evacuations. However, there are times when evacuation organizations mandate that you leave pets behind for safety reasons. In those circumstances, protect your pet by taking some basic precautions. Leave them in a safe area of the house and provide them with sufficient food and water to last twice as long as you think you might be gone. Prop open or remove the toilet seat and bathroom door so that they will have a good source of clean water. Finally, post a notice on your doors that there are pets inside and include contact information for both you and your veterinarian.

Having a pet as part of your family can be a wonderful experience, but it's one that comes with a great deal of responsibility. Developing a pet emergency preparedness kit and a pet evacuation plan may seem like a lot of work, but in a disaster it could save your beloved animal's life.

Quick Tip: Call local animal shelters to find out what area shelters might take your pet in an emergency. If you live in an area particularly prone to large-scale disasters, such as hurricanes, consider finding an out-of-town friend who will take care of your pet if you are displaced long term.

For more information about preparing for emergencies, check out the following links:

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

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