PAWS Magazine

Issue 62, Spring 2005

Be Prepared: Help Keep Your Family Safe

The images were heart wrenching, nearly unbearable: barking dogs stranded on top of cars as water lapped at their feet. Furry faces peering out of windows from attics and second story bedrooms, trying to escape the rising waters. All anxiously waiting for their guardians to return. Just before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the mandatory evacuation was declared. Those who could, grabbed their two- and four-legged family members and fled to safety. Others had no choice but to leave food and water for their pets, hoping to see them again in a couple of days. Those who refused to abandon their pets, stayed to ride out the storm endangering their own lives. Later many were forced to leave their animals behind when rescuers wouldn’t let them aboard helicopters or boats. Survivors who had just lost everything also lost their best friends.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — just one of the many organizations that responded to the disaster — stated it rescued more than 8,200 animals, the largest animal rescue operation in U.S. history. Many of these animals were sent to rescue groups around the country, including here in Washington, and guardians still scan the rescued animal postings, trying to locate their displaced friends. More than two months later, animals were still being found, emaciated and near death.


After the storm

This disaster underscored the profound strength of the human-companion animal bond.

This disaster not only showed how ill-prepared we were to properly evacuate and save human lives, but it underscored the profound strength of the human-companion animal bond. Thankfully, it moved some of our nation’s leaders to introduce a federal legislative bill recognizing that every evacuation plan must include pets. The bill is called the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS), H.R. 3858. It would require state and local governments to include pets and service animals in evacuation plans. Authorities must submit their plans to qualify for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. PAWS has joined the HSUS and other animal organizations in support of the PETS Act.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, PAWS joined the Snohomish County Disaster Task Force more than two years ago, and has also reached out to the city of Lynnwood and other local municipalities to offer guidance on how best local disaster plans can include animals.

What can you do?

PAWS supporters asked how they can make a difference for animals affected by this disaster. Many donated money directly to the national organizations on the ground and for our disaster relief collection at this year’s PAWSwalk. Others offered to open their homes for fostering animals being airlifted to Washington state and collected supplies needed to care for them. For all this, we thank you.

Now is the time to prepare for future emergencies, and plan how to minimize the impacts of such tragedies in our own community. Here’s what you can do:

  • First, contact your federal representatives and tell them to support the PETS Act. Learn more about the act and how to send a message to your representatives by visiting: https://community. hsus.org/campaign/pets_act_house/.
  • Second, get involved and stay informed of the plans your local city officials are making to save people and animals. Show them that all lives are valuable to you.
  • Third, make sure both you and your pets are prepared in the event of a catastrophe. Your companion animals depend on you to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Act early and be prepared.

Disaster Preparedness for Your Pets

The better prepared you are before something happens, the greater your chances are for keeping everyone safe. Here are some tips for your own disaster plan:

  • Always outfit each pet with a collar and up-to-date identification tag, including a cell phone number or a reliable number outside of your area. A current license tag is also a must, as government records are often the first to be accessed in an emergency. Most importantly, get your pet microchipped. Collars can be torn off and tags lost, but a microchip is a fail-safe, permanent method of identification.
  • If you need to evacuate, take your animals with you, even if you think it might be only for a short time. Scared animals can escape through windows or be hurt inside a damaged house. If it’s unsafe for you, it’s unsafe for them.
  • Emergency human shelters usually don’t allow pets, so identify a place outside your community ahead of time where your animals can go: a friend or relative’s house, a hotel that allows animals, or a boarding kennel or vet office that can temporarily house them. Local animal shelters may be overrun in a disaster, so don’t rely on them having space for your animal.
  • If you don’t evacuate, keep dogs on leash and all other animals in carriers inside with you. That way you know where they are and can leave at a moment’s notice. It’s a good idea for cats to be indoor-only or supervised while outside. When a disaster strikes, your cat won’t be left behind.
  • In case you are not home when a disaster happens, make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or nearby relative to retrieve your pets.

Disaster Supplies Disaster Supplies Checklist

Keep supplies in an easy to carry, sturdy container. Keep the container in an easily accessible place, not in a basement. Include:

  • Enough food and water for at least three days for each animal, including written feeding instructions in case you need to leave your animal with someone
  • Bowls and a can opener
  • Enough medication for at least three days for each animal, including written instructions on medical conditions and dispensing medications
  • Cat litter and litter box
  • Carriers for smaller animals; leashes and harnesses for dogs
  • Familiar blankets and towels to help calm a stressed animal, or for extra bedding
  • Toys and treats—these will help your animal feel more comfortable and help lure a scared animal from a hiding place
  • Current photos and descriptions of each animal including any unique features—these will help prove the animals are yours if you are separated
  • A pet first aid kit and how-to guide. You can find these at pet supply stores or online

For more information and links to national disaster preparedness resources, visit www.paws.org.

 

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