If you live with furry friends it’s important to plan for their well being and safety in an emergency, too. Few of us will forget the images of pets struggling for survival in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The lesson was learned hard and fast, and animal welfare in an emergency took a quantum leap forward via legislation, public awareness, emergency services and owner preparedness.
Take some time to prepare for emergency scenarios befitting your geography. Every pet owner should have a grab-and-go plan for evacuating a home quickly and some geographies require a plan for extended absences. Here are some tips from the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States:
Get a Rescue Alert Window Sticker that lets emergency workers and others know how many pets are inside your home. Stickers are free from the ASPCA and from some pet stores or veterinarians.
Make an Emergency Supply and Travel Kit that is easy to carry. It should include:
- Pet first-aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic cream, instant cold pack, gauze, alcohol wipes, sting relief, scissors, blanket and tweezers
- 3-7 days of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- Disposable litter trays and litter (aluminum roasting pans are the right size)
- Liquid disinfectant soap
- Garbage bags for clean-up
- Food dishes
- Extra collar and leash
- Waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires
- Bottled water for at least 7 days
- A traveling carrier, ideally one for each pet
- Blanket (useful for scooping up a fearful pet)
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
- Especially for cats: Pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter
- Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys, chew toys, and enough cage liner to last a week.
Arrange a Safe Haven and Caregivers. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets, so don’t leave them behind. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it is imperative to make an evacuation plan for them ahead of time including identifying hotels outside of your immediate area that accept pets and asking friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet. Establish a permanent caregiver should something happen to you.
Evacuation Preparation. If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. If you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced:
- Keep emergency kit handy or load into vehicle
- Make sure pets are wearing tags with up-to-date identification
- Bring pets indoors. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
- Call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone at the first sign of disaster.
- If emergency officials recommend that you stay in your home, determine which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear of hazards such as windows and flying debris.
- Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones.
- Fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises.
- In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.
If you keep other kinds of pets, the ASPCA lists special considerations for birds, reptiles and small animals that are important to read.