Do you have a plan in place for your pet if a natural disaster strikes? Many of us are prepared and plan for ourselves and our family, but our pets are part of our family too, and leaving them out of the equation can put you and your pet in danger. Planning ahead is the key to keeping yourself and your pet safe. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Make an Evacuation Plan
Pet Carriers and Leashes
Purchase a pet carrier for all your pets. This will make it easy to transport your pets during an evacuation. Familiarize your pet/pets with their carrier and take them for car rides before a disaster strikes. For good measure write your pets name, your name and your contact info on the carrier as well. If your pet is too big for a carrier a leash is fine. Be sure to keep the leash and carrier where it is easy to grab when you need to exit your home quickly.
Plan a Pet-Friendly Place to Stay
Search in advance for out-of-area pet-friendly hotels or boarding facilities, or make a housing exchange agreement with an out-of-area friend or relative. Never leave your pet behind if you evacuate! (Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters, only service animals are allowed in Red Cross shelters.) At petswelcome.com you can find a list of pet-friendly hotels in the US.
Help Emergency Workers
The ASPCA recommends using a rescue sticker alert to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes the types and number of pets in your household and your veterinarian's phone number. If you have already evacuated with your pets (and if time allows) write "EVACUATED" across the stickers so rescue workers don’t waste time looking for them.
Choose a Designated Caregiver
In case you are not home during an evacuation choose a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own where you can be there them if they are not around. When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.
What if You and Your Pet Get Separated?
Microchip Your Pet
This is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you get separated when disaster strikes. Be sure to keep the microchip registration up to date, and include at least one emergency number of a relative or friend who lives the closest to you.
Collar and ID Tags
Keeping a collar and ID tag on your pet, will also help you and your pet be reunited in the unfortunate situation you are separated from your pet. Be sure to keep the information updated on your pet’s ID tag.
Prepare an Emergency Supply Kit for Your Pet
- Pet first-aid kit (learn more about what should be included in a Pet First-Aid Kit)
- 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- At least 7 days worth of water for your pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
- Litter or paper toweling
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
- Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
- Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
- Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner
Download the ASPCA App
The ASPCA has a pet safety app for lost pets, disaster prep and emergency alerts. Use this essential tool to keep your pets safe during emergency situations and to store vital pet records for your cat or dog. This free app from the ASPCA shows you exactly how to search for a lost pet and provides information on making life-saving decisions in the event of severe weather or a natural disaster. You will also be able to take weekly actions to help pets in need across the country! Learn more here. AND, don’t forget to comfort your animals. Animals can get very stressed during a disaster or evacuation, just like people, a calm presence and soft voice will help to relax them. Some animals, especially cats, may be too scared to be comforted. Do the best you can to keep them safe and calm, try toys, blankets, or even treats. Our pets are always there for us when we need them and they will appreciate you being there for them when they need you.