Disaster may strike at anytime, with no warning. Anything can happen and no one is immune. You may have already created a disaster plan for your human family, but don't forget to include your companion animals in that plan. The more prepared you are before something happens, the greater your chances are for keeping everyone safe.
Here are some tips for your pet 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 is helpful, too, as government records are often the first to be accessed in an emergency. Also consider getting your pet a microchip (a permanent form of ID), which will help reunite you if something happens to the collar or tags.
- If you evacuate, take your animals with you, even if you think it might be only for a short time. Scared animals can escape through broken windows or be hurt inside a damaged house. They are at risk for serious injury, getting lost, starvation or death. If it's unsafe for you, it's unsafe for them.
- Emergency human shelters usually don't allow pets, therefore find a place outside your area ahead of time where your animals can go. This may be a friend or relative's house, a hotel that allows animals or a boarding kennel or vet office that can temporarily and safely house your animals. Local animal shelters may be overrun in a disaster, therefore make them your last resort.
- If you don't evacuate, keep dogs on leash and all other animals in carriers inside your home 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 always be indoor-only or supervised while outside. When a disaster strikes, your cat won't be left behind.
- In case you are not at home, make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or nearby relative to retrieve your pets in the event of an emergency.
Disaster supplies checklist
Whether you stay at home or not, gather supplies for your animals in advance and keep them in an easy to carry, sturdy container. Keep the container in an accessible place. Although the basement seems like a good idea, it will probably be the most inaccessible part of your home in an earthquake or flood.
Here is a checklist of things to 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 dispensing medications and medical conditions.
- Cat litter and litter box.
- Carriers for smaller animals; leashes and harnesses in good condition for dogs.
- Familiar blankets and towels that can serve to calm a stressed animal and be used as bedding away from home.
- 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 special traits -- these will serve to prove the animals are yours if you are separated.
- A pet first aid kit and instructional book -- you can find these at pet supply stores or online.
Remember, your companion animals depend on you to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Act early and be prepared.
For more information on disaster preparedness for your companion animals, visit these websites: