For many of us, our pets are members of our family and keeping them safe from disaster requires particular organizing and planning. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are a number of steps you can take now to be prepared and protect your pets in case of a natural or man-made disaster.
ID your pet. Every dog or cat should have a collar and visible identification tag with up-to-date contact information. Having your pet microchipped can help reunite the two of you and is a great back-up in case a pet’s collar or tags are lost. Be sure to include your current mobile number on your pet’s tag and stored microchip information. If you’re forced to evacuate, you’ll still be reachable.
Create a disaster kit for your pet. In addition to the human members of your household, your pet needs a disaster kit. Items should include:
- Food and water for each pet – enough to last five days. Medications and medical records.
- Garbage bags, litter box and cat litter.
- Pet carrier, leash, harness – whatever you typically use for your pet. Keep in mind that shelters may require that your pet be placed in a carrier or crate.
- Current photos and descriptions of your pets in case you become separated.
- Pet bed and toys, which can help to calm your pet in what’s likely to be a stressful situation.
- Written instructions for feeding, medication, medical conditions, behavioral issues and phone numbers for you and your veterinarian in case your pet needs to be boarded.
- Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach.
Identify a safe, pet-friendly place to stay before disaster strikes. Your local office of emergency management (find yours at FEMA.gov) can provide recommendations. Don’t ever assume that community shelters can accommodate pets, as some may not have the resources. If you are temporarily relocating to a hotel, these online resources can provide pet-friendly accommodation suggestions:
If you evacuate – take your pet. If it’s not safe for you to stay, it’s not safe for your pet either. Pets left behind can be injured, lost or killed. And evacuate early, giving you more options for traveling with and relocating your pet.
If you shelter in place, take the same care with your pets as with other family members. Identify a safe area in your home where you and your pets can stay together. Close off places where frightened animals may try to hide and move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products.
Identify a back-up caretaker for your pets in case you can’t get home. This is a good idea for major emergencies, as well as lesser ones that could delay your arrival at home. Make sure your back-up caretaker has a key to your home and is informed about feeding schedules, medications and your pet’s habits. If you use a pet setting service, ask if they are available to help in case of an emergency.
Finally, recognize that emergency situations can be very stressful for pets. Loud noises, unfamiliar smells and your own anxiety can be unsettling. Give them extra attention and be very patient. With preparation, care and support from you, they can weather a disaster as safely and securely as possible.