Disaster Preparedness: Take Steps to Include Your Pets

09/30/2015

Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes. Nearly every month we hear and read about natural disasters happening throughout the world. But let’s be honest, most of us don’t have a plan in place to evacuate in the event of an emergency. And even fewer have a disaster preparedness plan that includes our pets.

Because mandatory evacuations can range from a few hours to several weeks, or longer, experts routinely warn against leaving pets behind. Pets left behind during a natural disaster can get lost, become injured, or even killed. Scared pets can also become aggressive, creating a potential hazard for first responders.

The best and most responsible course of action if you are asked to evacuate your home is to take your pets with you. By putting a plan in place now, you can be ready should a natural disaster occur.

Pet Emergency Kit Check List

Start by creating a “Go Bag” that includes the following items and placing the bag in an easy-to-find location.

  • sterile bottled water

  • food (at least three days’ worth)

  • bowls

  • crates

  • carriers

  • litter

  • leashes

  • can opener

  • paper towels

  • plastic bags

  • pee pads

  • collars with identifying tags

  • required medications

  • information on feeding schedules behavioral problems, and medical conditions

  • veterinary records (particularly proof of rabies vaccination)

  • current pictures and/or descriptions of any distinguishing features

  • a veterinary first aid kit

  • spare bedding or toys to help ease pets’ stress

Dr. Kelli Ferris, Assistant Professor at North Carolina College of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the Community-Campus Partnership says, “When creating your ‘Go Bag,’ fill it with what you can and keep a list in the bag of what needs to be added if you need to evacuate. This way, you don’t need to think, just fill the bag and be ready to leave in a short amount of time.”

Emergency Housing

If emergency housing is necessary (ie: shelters, hotels, veterinarians, or boarding facilities), proof of vaccinations will almost certainly be required to help reduce the spread of communicable diseases among the animals. Emergency shelters that provide temporary housing for you and your pets, or boarding facilities specifically for your pet, can fill up quickly during a natural disaster. 

Having a contingency plan, such as family and friends who can take your pets in the case of evacuation, is an important aspect of a disaster preparedness plan. It is also recommended that pet owners make arrangements with trusted people, preferably neighbors who live in close proximity, to evacuate their pets if they cannot make it home in a timely manner during a natural disaster.

Emergency Preparedness Drills

Occasional emergency preparedness drills go a long way in reducing the potential chaos during an actual natural disaster. A drill should include placing your pets in crates or carriers to help cut down on their anxiety. A drill also provides an opportunity to anticipate any potential issues with your plan, giving you time to make adjustments.  

Taking some time now and creating an emergency preparedness plan that includes your entire family – both four-legged and two-legged members – provides peace of mind in the event of a natural disaster. 

Learn more about disaster preparedness.

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