Disaster can strike at a moment’s notice, forcing your family to shelter in your home or suddenly evacuate. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other unexpected emergencies can separate pets from their owners, and after a disaster, displaced pets may never make it back home. Include your pet in your disaster plan so you don’t risk losing her or having to leave her behind because you are unprepared.
Prepare an emergency kit for your pet
Prepare a ready-to-go emergency kit that includes supplies your pet will need, whether you shelter in place or evacuate. Assemble your kit in waterproof, sturdy containers that can be carried easily, and include essentials, such as:
- Food to last a minimum of three days
- Bottled water to last a minimum of three days
- Food and water bowls
- A manual can opener for canned food
- A leash and collar, or harness
- A collapsible crate or carrier, labeled with your contact information
- A litter pan, litter, and litter scoop, for cats
- A pet first-aid kit
- Medications with administration instructions
- Important medical records, such as vaccination paperwork
- Current photos of your pet
- A favorite blanket or toy
Take an inventory of your emergency kit every few months, and restock perishable items, such as food and medications, to keep them in-date and fresh.
Prepare an action plan for your pet
When seconds count, a successful emergency plan relies on preparedness and fast action. Keep a written action plan with your disaster kit, and update emergency contacts and evacuation sites as needed. Consider the following when devising your emergency plan:
- Where will my pet stay? — Keep a list of pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route, with phone numbers, so you can make a reservation, since safe locations will fill up quickly. Know which local friends, relatives, shelters, veterinary clinics, and boarding facilities may be able to temporarily house your pet in an emergency. Keep your pet’s vaccines up-to-date at all times, since many shelters and boarding facilities may turn your pet away if you cannot prove she is current.
- How will I transport my pet? — Keep your pet’s collar on her at all times, and prepare a crate or carrier that can be used to safely transport your pet. Keep vehicles filled with fuel, and keep cash in your emergency kit to ensure you can get out of town quickly, if needed.
- Who will transport my pet if I am unable to get to her? — If a disaster arises when you are not at home, your pet could be stranded without help if you don’t appoint someone to rescue her. Ask a trusted neighbor or family member to care for your pet or transport her to a predetermined location where you can take over her care.
- How will rescue crews find my pet? — If a tornado damages your home or flood waters make access difficult, you may have to rely on emergency crews to rescue your pet. Make a sign or purchase a rescue sticker to notify rescue workers that your pet may be inside. List all pets in your household by breed and name, and include your cell phone number. If you leave with your pet, write “evacuated” across the sign so a rescue crew doesn’t waste time looking for her.
Once you have an emergency plan in place, practice it often so everyone knows what to do. Assign each family member specific tasks so nothing is overlooked during the chaos of an actual emergency. Prepare your pet by occasionally placing her open carrier in your home with blankets and treats inside so she forms a positive association. Take her for short car rides so she is not faced with a new experience in an emergency.
Ensure your pet has permanent identification
The goal of your disaster preparedness plan is to keep you pet with you, but sometimes the best preparation can’t prevent separation. Although your pet should always wear a collar with an identification tag, if it slips off, she may never make her way home. If the unthinkable happens, a microchip can help emergency workers identify your pet and reunite you.
When Southwest Vet’s own medical director, Dr. Singleton, was in his third year of veterinary school at Louisiana State University, Hurricane Katrina hit the area. “We were the first big city outside of New Orleans, and, as such, became the staging area for one of the most massive pet rescues and relocations, headed up by the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine,” said Dr. Singleton. “I got to see first hand how much difference that one little microchip could make. Pets who were already microchipped—and the chip was registered—were infinitely more likely to be reunited than pets without one.”
A microchip is a tiny radio-frequency device that is placed under the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades. When a hand-held scanner is passed over the implanted microchip, a unique number linked to your contact information appears on the screen. Microchip implantation is a simple procedure we can typically perform during a routine office visit without sedation or anesthesia. After placement, you will register your contact information with the company database so they can facilitate a reunion, if necessary.
Planning today can save your pet’s life in the future. If you have questions about including your pet in your disaster-preparation plans, contact us.