Protecting Pets in a Disaster

When we think of "disasters" we usually envision large-scale emergencies, such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc. However, much more common are personal disasters, which could be just as devastating to individual families as a huge cataclysmic event. House fires, extended power outages, car accidents, or sudden hospitalization are examples of events that may call for alternative care of our pets.

Preparation

It is best to prepare an emergency response plan prior to any crisis to avoid suffering to our four-legged friends. The American Red Cross provides excellent materials that will also help you and your family to develop an emergency plan. You should decide ahead of time who will be responsible for pet care if any emergency strikes. Choose the best room in the house to leave your pet if necessary. Make arrangements with neighbors. Be sure they have keys to your home along with specific information as to what pets are there, where they are located, and instructions for any medication needed. It also helps if your pets are familiar with your neighbors ahead of time, so they will not be dealing with strangers, and adding to the stress. Train your pet to a crate. In a crisis, he may need to be transported, and the ordeal will be less stressful if the crate is a comfortable and familiar place. Always keep pet's vaccinations current.

It is a good idea to prepare a disaster kit for your pet which should include: collars, tags, and leashes, a muzzle or gauze bandage, two-week supply of dry food, water, bowls, paper towels, and plastic bags for waste clean-up, and copies of pet's medical and vaccination records. Your pet's crate should be labeled with the pet's name, your name, and where you may be reached, or an out-of-area phone contact, if phone lines are down, and any specific medical instructions for the animal. Prepare a telephone tree, with numbers of family, friends, veterinarian, local animal control, or shelter, local hotels which accept pets, etc.