Before Disaster Strikes!

JoJo and Taz smelled something strange in the air. Mommy seemed anxious and kept going outside. The birds could hear sirens screaming the distance. Taz shrieked. JoJo chirped loudly in fear. Dad burst through the front door and into the back yard. Something was happening! Mommy covered the cages and the smell was gone. The dogs were in the house barking and jumping at the back door but were not allowed to go out. Mommy brought the cat from her room and put her into her carrier. The cat meowed loudly. Taz and JoJo were afraid. A fire burned in a field behind the house.

Preparedness is important, even critical at times when disaster strikes. Not being prepared can result in disaster and even death or injury. As pet owners we are responsible for the well-being and safety of our pets. Setting them free is not an option. It is important to plan.

This information from ASPCA-Disaster Preparedness is a good plan to get you started.

General Evacuation Information for all pets

Get a Rescue Alert Sticker

Place an alert sticker on or near your front door to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers. To get a free emergency pet alert sticker for your home, go to the ASPCA website. Your local pet supply store may also sell similar stickers.

Arrange a Safe Haven

Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. They may become trapped or escape to numerous life-threatening hazards. Not all shelters accept pets, so you must determine where you will bring your pets ahead of time:

  • Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
  • Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
  • Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
  • Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.

Choose “Designated Caregivers”

When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence or a neighbor. This should be person who is generally home during the day and has access to your home. Give a set of keys to this individual.

Prepare Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits

If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. Minimize evacuation time with these simple steps:

  • All pets should wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information including urgent medical needs. Also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
  • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
  • Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it is clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to keep in your “Evac-Pack” include:
    • Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)
    • 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
    • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
    • Litter or paper toweling
    • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
    • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
    • Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
    • Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
    • Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
    • At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
    • A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
    • Flashlight
    • Blanket
    • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)

Keep the ASPCA On-Hand

The free ASPCA mobile app shows pet parents exactly what to do in case of a natural disaster. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records and provides information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters.

Special Considerations for Birds

  • Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.
  • In cold weather, place a blanket over the bird’s cage. This will also help reduce the stress of traveling.
  • In warm weather, carry a spray bottle to periodically moisten your bird’s feathers.
  • Have recent photos available, and keep your bird’s leg bands on for identification.
  • Line bottom of cage with paper towels that you can change frequently.
  • Keep the carrier in as quiet an area as possible.
  • It is particularly imperative that birds eat daily, so purchase a timed feeder. If you need to leave your bird unexpectedly, the feeder will ensure his daily feeding schedule.
  • Keep these items on hand: Catch net, heavy towel, blanket or sheet to cover cage, cage liner.

Considerations when you cannot evacuate

If you live in an area that is prone to fires or certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, you should plan accordingly.

  • Determine well in advance which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear or hazards such as windows, flying debris, etc.
  • Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms and basements.
  • Be sure there is access to a supply of fresh water. Fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises.
  • In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter. Do not go into the attic as you may be trapped in the event of severe flooding.

Taz and JoJo were safe from the fire that threatened their home that day. There is a large open field behind the house that catches fire during dry periods. Mommy has asked a neighbor to rescue all the animals in case of another fire. We were all very lucky that day.

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