If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Preparing for the unexpected makes sense. Get ready now.
1) Prepare: Get a pet emergency supply kit
Just as you do with your family's emergency supply kit, think first about the basics for survival, particularly food and water. Consider two kits. In one, put everything you and your pets will need to stay where you are. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away. Plus, be sure to review your kits regularly to ensure that their contents, especially foods and medicines, are fresh.
Food: Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
Water: Store at least three days of water specifically for your pets in addition to water you need for yourself and your family.
Medicines and medical records: Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
First aid kit: Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet's emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Include a pet first aid reference book.
Collar with ID tag, harness or leash: Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag in your pet's emergency supply kit. In addition, place copies of your pet's registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container and also add them to your kit. You should also consider talking with your veterinarian about permanent identification such as microchipping, and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
Crate or other pet carrier: If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation, take your pets with you provided that it is practical to do so. In many cases, your ability to do so will be aided by having a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier ready for transporting your pet. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
Sanitation: Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet's sanitation needs. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color-safe bleaches, or those with added cleaners.
A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
Familiar items: Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.
2) Plan: What you will do in an emergency
Be prepared to assess the situation. Use whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your pet's safety during an emergency. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and the information you are learning here to determine if there is immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for instructions. If you're specifically told to evacuate, shelter-in-place or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.
Create a plan to get away: Plan how you will assemble your pets and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if practical. If you go to a public shelter, keep in mind your animals may not be allowed inside. Secure appropriate lodging in advance depending on the number and type of animals in your care. Consider family or friends willing to take in you and your pets in an emergency. Other options may include a hotel or motel that takes pets, or a boarding facility, such as a kennel or veterinary hospital that is near an evacuation facility or your family's meeting place. Find out before an emergency happens if any of these facilities in your area might be viable options for you and your pets.
Develop a buddy system: Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Talk with your pet care buddy about your evacuation plans and show them where you keep your pet's emergency supply kit. Also designate specific locations, one in your immediate neighborhood and another farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.
Talk to your pet's veterinarian about emergency planning: Discuss the types of things that you should include in your pet's emergency first aid kit. Get the names of vets or veterinary hospitals in other cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter. You should also consider talking with your veterinarian about permanent identification such as microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database. If your pet is microchipped, keeping your emergency contact information up-to-date and listed with a reliable recovery database is essential to your being reunited with your pet.
Gather contact information for emergency animal treatment: Make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society or SPCA, and emergency veterinary hospitals. Keep one copy of these phone numbers with you and one in your pet's emergency supply kit. Obtain "Pets Inside" stickers and place them on your doors or windows, including information on the number and types of pets in your home to alert firefighters and rescue workers. Consider putting a phone number on the sticker where you could be reached in an emergency. And, if time permits, remember to write the words "Evacuated with pets" across the stickers, should you flee with your pets.
3) Stay Informed: Know about types of emergencies
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an emergency supply kit for yourself, your family and your pets, is the same regardless of the type of emergency. However, it's important to stay informed about what might happen and know what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region as well as emergency plans that have been established by your state and local government. For more information about how to prepare, visit www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY.
Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected. Those who take the time to prepare themselves and their pets will likely encounter less difficulty, stress and worry. Take the time now to get yourself and your pet ready.