This week's Disaster Preparedness Tips is centered around our best friend companions and how we can ensure their safety and security during a time of a disaster emergency. It is easy to get distracted during an emergency situation and forget about your animals if you have not thought about how you would handle protecting them in the event of a disaster.
What should you do to protect your pet in the event of an earthquake, a hurricane, severe weather, or any other natural disaster? Pets, their owners, and emergency responders can be all put at risk if pet owners leave their pets out of an evacuation plan. Even if you make every effort to provide shelter for your pet, leaving them behind during a time of crisis leaves them more prone to injuries, becoming lost, or worse. Prepare for the worst, make a plan, and make sure you have a disaster kit for both you your pet.
Before a Disaster
You can start by becoming familiar with the possible disasters in your area. Then, consider your options for caring for your pet(s).
You never know when disasters could strike, it's important to have a plan in place.
- Your pet(s) should have collars and tags that include current contact information.
- Microchip your pet(s). This is one of the most effective ways to ensure your pet and you are reunited in case you become separated. Register your microchip with the manufacturer. Keep your contact information current with the microchip company.
- A leash or carrier should be kept near the exit.
- You should have the proper equipment to allow your pets to ride in your car (carriers and harnesses, pet seat belts).
Make sure to prepare a Pet Emergency Kit for an easy evacuation. Ask your veterinarian for assistance in compiling your pet's medical records. Keep contact and microchip information in this kit.
In case of an emergency, plan where your pet and you will be staying. Except for service animals, pets may not be allowed to stay in shelters. Many disaster evacuation centers, such as Red Cross evacuation centers, do not allow pets or other animals.
- Find shelters, out-of-town relatives, or friends where your pet and other animals could stay.
- Find boarding facilities and animal hospitals close to your evacuation shelter in case you need them.
- In case of an emergency, create a buddy system. Ask your neighbor to check on your pets and evacuate them if needed.
- Find a veterinarian in your area and include their contact information in your emergency kit.
Make sure your pet has an emergency kit
Make sure you have a first aid kit ready for your pet.
- Each pet should have a pet carrier.
- Each pet should be provided with water and food for at least two weeks.
- Cats: Litter box and litter
- Plastic bags for dog poop
- Minimum 2 weeks of medication
- Medical records, including records of vaccinations for rabies or other diseases, prescription medication, and medical history.
- Harnesses and leashes that are strong
- Microchip number
- Contact information (cell, work, and home phones) for the owner as well as close relatives or friends
Practice evacuating your pet
- Make it a safe place for your pet to rest.
- You can practice transporting your pet in a vehicle that is similar to the one you are evacuating. Make arrangements with your neighbors, family, or friends if you don't have a vehicle. To learn more about transportation options in the event of a disaster, you can contact your local government.
- Be aware of where your pet may hide when they are scared or stressed. If necessary, practice catching your pet.
- You can train your cat to be able to quickly get out of danger.
- Practice evacuating your pet with the whole family. This will ensure that everyone is familiar with what to do, where to find them, and how to meet them.
Help Emergency Workers Find Your Pets
To let others know your pets are in your home, the ASPCA recommends that you use a rescue alert sticker >. It should be visible to rescue workers and include information about your veterinarian and the type and number of pets in the household.
In the event you evacuate with your pet (if you have the time) write "EVACUATED” across the stickers. This will ensure that rescue workers don’t waste their time searching for them.
During A Disaster
Sheltering during an evacuation
- Remember that your pet's safety is paramount during a disaster. You could leave your pet behind and they might become lost, hurt, or worse. You should never leave your pet outside without a collar.
Ask your local emergency management agency if they offer accommodation for owners and pets. Accommodations may be required for your pet(s).
- For assistance, contact local veterinary clinics, animal shelters, boarding facilities, and family members outside of the evacuation zone.
- To find shelter in your local area, visit the Humane Society
- Always remember to bring your pet's first aid kit and/or pet emergency kit.
Sheltering in place
If you are looking for shelter at home for your pet, ensure that the chosen room is pet-friendly in these ways:
- Choose a safe place, preferably an interior space with few windows.
- Take out any plants or chemicals that are toxic.
- Avoid small spaces where fearful cats might get trapped (such as under heavy furniture or vents).
Become educated on potential diseases
Some diseases can be transmitted by natural disasters. Your pet could become sick if they are exposed to unfavorable weather conditions, stagnant or wild animals, and overcrowding. These illnesses, also known as zoonotic disease or zoonoses, can be passed between pets and humans. The following are some common diseases that pets can transmit to humans: leptospirosis and rabies.
- Rabies can be a virus that causes nervous system damage in animals and humans. The transmission of rabies can be done by contacting salivary glands or bites from a rabid animal. Protect your pet and yourself by reporting any bite wounds immediately to a medical professional. Safe handling of pets during stressful situations is a good practice. Your pet should be kept in a carrier or on a leash. Your pet should not be allowed to interact with other animals.
- Leptospirosis can be caused by bacteria in infected animals' urine. It can also cause damage to other organs and kidney failure. It can be transmitted by contact with infected urine, contaminated water, soil, or food. After coming into contact with urine, wash your hands. Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding after natural disasters. Do not allow pets to drink or play in contaminated water.
Ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes can spread diseases: The common pests that stray animals encounter are fleas and ticks. They can also be a problem in an emergency situation. They can cause skin irritation and spread diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. This is harmful to both humans and animals. To prevent tick-borne diseases, keep your pet away from wildlife and other animals. Your veterinarian may recommend a preventative treatment for fleas and ticks.
How to keep healthy during a disaster
- After handling pet food or waste, wash your hands.
- You should not allow your pet to lick your hands or face.
- Make sure your pet is up-to-date with all vaccinations, heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.
- Safe handling is important because pets can behave differently in stressful situations.
- You can keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier.
- You should not allow your pet to interact with any other animals, particularly wildlife or stray animals.
- Notify medical personnel immediately if you have any bite wounds.
- Clean and disinfect litter boxes and cages regularly. Regularly wash your pet's bedding.
- Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding after natural disasters.
- Do not allow your pets to drink or play in contaminated water.
After a Disaster
In an emergency situation, familiar smells and landmarks might have changed. It is possible for pets to become lost or confused so make sure they are on a leash when being transported, or in a carrier, if you take them outside. There are two things that people and pets should be aware of: snakes and wildlife, especially after flooding and downed power lines.
- To protect your family and pets, make sure you check your home for any sharp objects, chemicals spilled, or exposed wiring.
- After a flash flood, storm, flood, or hurricane, animals' behavior can change drastically. Normally calm and friendly animals can become upset.
- You should always keep your animals safe and secure.
- If you notice signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pet, consult a veterinarian immediately.
Find your lost pet
- Before you start your search, make sure your family is safe.
- Inform the shelter staff if you have pets. Send the pet caretaker a missing pets flyer.
- Many shelters and organizations can take in pets that have been lost due to disasters. To find shelters and organizations close to you, contact your local animal welfare organization, humane society, county or state animal response teams, or animal welfare agency. You may also find the right local response organization by using the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition.
- You can also contact your local animal control to report your pet missing. Once conditions are stable, you can also post missing pet flyers around the area.
- Call the microchip company if your pet is missing from their microchip. Also, make sure that all information about your pet, including current contact information, is up-to-date.
Pet first aid
- Pet first aid and emergency treatment should not be substituted for veterinary care. It may save your pet’s life, even if you are unable to get them to the veterinarian.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association provides specific advice on basic first aid for poisoning, seizures, and fractures, as well as how to treat heatstroke and burns.
How to handle injured pets
- Do not assume that your pet will never bite or scratch you if they are hurt.
- Animals can become unpredictable and even dangerous due to fear or pain.
- Do not attempt to hug an animal in pain.
- Be gentle and slow when you come in contact with your pet.
- If your animal becomes more stressed or agitated, stop.
- You should get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible to avoid injury or illness to you or your family.
Staying informed and prepared is key. These are just a few ways to stay informed.
- Pay attention to wireless emergency alerts that are available for alerts and warnings from local officials and state public safety officers.
- Listen to local officials when asked to evacuate.
- Download the FEMA app to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations in the United States.
- Keep your pets inside in the event of a severe storm or other natural disasters.
If putting together your own pet emergency kit sounds like a daunting task, you can also find pre-assembled kits for purchase. And remember, inspect your kit(s) regularly and replace any expired food, water, supplies, and medications.