How best to plan for pets in the unfortunate circumstances of evacuating your home due to a natural disaster
Unfortunately as we’ve seen in the last month or so in the USA and nearby in the Caribbean with such natural disasters as forest fires and hurricanes, there is a need to be prepared for your pets’ safety and wellness as well as your own. The only way to be prepared is to plan ahead. This allows you to minimize risk of injury and death to yourself and your beloved pet(s), as well as keeping first responders and emergency personnel from taking on unnecessary risk to rescue someone who stayed behind because of their pet.
On Facebook, there were many people posting about how they were going to deal with their pets during hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida – some by hiding in closets to avoid local government-mandated evacuation. This is a last resort and should be avoided by planning ahead as best as possible.
Sheltering Pets With Humans Can Be Problematic But Is Necessary
It is reported that as one of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, many government programs now include pets in their shelter accommodations.
This can be difficult due to closeness in shelters and allergies and other medical issues that can be suffered by those humans allergic to pet dander. In Katrina, many residents stayed put—and died in some cases—rather than heed rescuers’ instructions to leave pets behind as waters inundated homes. Others faced wrenching choices when they arrived at shelters that would not allow animals.
One small white dog, Snowball, became a national symbol of these emotional separations after he was taken from the arms of a child who was boarding a bus to Texas that did not take pets. The boy cried so hard, he vomited.
Be Prepared – Tip #1
Prepare a pet emergency kit with information from local government regarding sheltering pets, a list of veterinarian offices and pet emergency care contact information. Have enough crates to hold each pet in the event of a storm in the designated area for each pet. Panic can give rise to out of the ordinary behaviors in pets and fast confinement will be required. These crates can also make or break a situation in a shelter where there are unknown people and situations for your pet.
Be Prepared – Tip #2
Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification. Also microchip your pet(s) and be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
Be Prepared – Tip #3
Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information. If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located ahead of time and make a list and keep it where you can find it easily. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current, so keep those together and in a waterproof bag.
Be Prepared – Tip #4
Post a rescue alert sticker on your front door at home–and keep it up to date, including updating it if you can if and when you evacuate with your pets. This will let first responders and other people know that pets are inside your home. Include the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian.
Be Prepared – Tip #5
Be sure to talk to your family, friends, neighbors and pet caretakers, including veterinarians, about taking care of your pets in an emergency situation. Doing this during calm and predictable times is the best way to be prepared in the event you need to act quickly.
We all love our pets and when we welcome them into our lives we make a promise to them to always do the right thing by them. Please be sure to plan ahead if you have pets so that you can always take care of them as well as yourself in the event of any type of emergency, especially a natural disaster where many people and pets need to be taken care of safely and thoughtfully at the same time.