Pet emergency preparedness how-to’s
When a natural disaster threatens, or actually occurs, the ensuing chaos and confusion can make it difficult to ensure pets are aptly safeguarded for the event both physically and emotionally, and that a pet owner’s home duly equipped for the crisis at hand. In fact, when pets are involved, the gamut of related crisis management concerns can aggravate an already worrisome situation.
While pet owners want to ensure their pets do not experience any bodily harm when a natural disaster presents, it’s also important to remember that many domestic pets are very much in tune with the environment and their immediate surroundings and can become unusually stressed under circumstances surrounding a natural disaster. As such, it’s imperative that pet owners are prepared to mitigate physical danger to a pet as well as psychological distress like nervousness, fear, and anxiety—and how these emotions may be outwardly expressed (even when contrary to a pet’s normal personality and behavior), which may include hiding, scratching, biting, noise-making, attempts to flee and disregarding commands.
To help keep pets safe, and their homes duly supplied, for an impending—or in the actual event of a—natural disaster, Paul Mann, Founder and CEO of FETCH! Pet Care , spotlights these fundamental yet crucial pet emergency preparedness tips offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):
1. Get a kit of pet emergency supplies. Just as you do with your family’s emergency supply kit, think first about the basics for survival, particularly food and water.
- 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.
- Important documents: 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.
- Crate or other pet carrier: If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation take your pets and animals with you, provided that it is practical to do so.
- 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 8 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before use. 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.
Consider two kits. In one, put everything your pets will need to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away.
2. Make a plan for what you will do in an emergency. Plan in advance what you will do in an emergency. Be prepared to assess the situation. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your pet’s safety during an emergency.
- Evacuate. 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 pets may not be allowed inside.
- 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 other farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.
- Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about emergency planning. Discuss the types of things 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. Also talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. If you and your pet are separated, this permanent implant for your pet and corresponding enrollment in a recovery database can help a veterinarian or shelter identify your animal. If your pet is microchipped, keeping your emergency contact information up to date and listed with a reliable recovery database is essential to you and your pet being reunited.
- 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 ASPCA 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 evacuate your home with your pets.
- Be prepared for what might happen. 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. 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.
“Sometimes assistance is needed to care for a pet when emergencies present, like during an evacuation when a shelter or lodging facility does not allow pets. In such instances, it’s prudent to have a backup plan in place to ensure you can secure proper care for your pet. As FEMA notes, one option is to ‘consider family or friends outside your immediate area who would be willing to take in you and your pets in an emergency.’ However, when you don’t want to burden or impose on family members or friends, or subject a beloved pet to kennel boarding to avoid what can be serious health concerns, highly trained and reliable professional pet sitters to visit or board a pet can be pre-arranged or are available on-call to ensure a pet receives protection as well aslove, attention and skilled treatment while apart from the family. That kind of peace of mind is priceless.”
Paul Mann is the Founder and CEO of Fetch! Pet Care—the nation’s largest and most trusted franchisor for professional pet sitting, dog walking, and pet fitness/exercise services—serving thousands of pets and pet parents throughout the United States from coast to coast. He may be reached online at: www.FetchPetCare.com .