Disaster Planning for Your Pets
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
Many of us are prepared as to what to do in the event of a disaster for ourselves and our two-legged family members, but it is also important to include our animals in case of disaster. This is just a short checklist to help pet owners get their four-legged family members ready too!
1. Develop a plan for your pets and make sure everyone in the family understands it. Share the plan and exchange house keys with a friend or neighbor that you trust and is dependable so that you have back up in case the disaster should occur when you are away from home. Be sure to leave all pertinent information in a pre-designated spot. This information should include feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian.
2. Be sure to take your pets with you any time you need to evacuate, even if it is supposed to only be for a short time. Some short-term evacuation, like the risk of a gas leak nearby, could turn into a large-scale disaster that keeps you away from your home, and pet, for much longer than you expected.
3. Plan in advance exactly how you will evacuate your family and animals. For example, do you have enough carriers for all of your pets? Will you need to take two vehicles in order to have enough room? Do you have a friend or relative who lives far enough away from you that you can plan to stay with?
4. Know which motels allow pets and if they have any specific restrictions or requirements. Also research boarding facilities in potential areas you may stay if you are not able to take your pet with you to your friends or motel. Most places will want your pet to be up to date on all vaccines, so be sure to keep your pet vaccinated and a copy of that vaccination certificate handy. Keep a list of pet-friendly sites in a 50 mile radius, with the phone number and address, with your other disaster information.
5. Microchip your pet in advance and be sure to register the microchip information and keep it updated. In addition to having your pet microchipped, make sure all your animals have identification. Identification includes not only microchips, but also collars and tags. If you do not have a tag, you can attach adhesive tape to the collar to write necessary information.
6. Gather important papers: a description of the animal including name, species, breed, color, sex, age, distinguishing features (we offer Pet Identifications cards with all of this information and a photo of your pet); vaccine records; microchip, registration, and licensing papers; current photos (including some with you and your pet to establish ownership, especially if you do not have your pet microchipped).
7. Prepare a basic first aid kit, including prescription medications. You can plan ahead and have medications that may be needed in the event of an emergency where you will be traveling, including motion sickness pills and sedatives.
8. Have a 72-hour emergency kit, including pet food, water (one gallon per pet per day), and litter. Use non-spill water and food bowls. It is not recommended to use moist foods since they spoil more rapidly. Water should be kept in a sanitized, unbreakable container.
9. Have a “Go Kit” that includes bedding, bowls, grooming tools, toys, litterbox and litter, trash bags, cleaner/disinfectants, paper towels, leashes, collars, crates, carriers, can opener, muzzle, and heartworm/flea/tick preventatives.
10. If you must leave your pet behind, leave out only dry-type food that won’t spoil easily. Water should be left in a bathtub or in non-spill containers in a large enough quantity that will last at least 3 days. Do not leave animals together that are unfamiliar with each other. Never leave pets outside. Leave visible signs on the inside of your window stating that there are pets inside the house.
It is important to remember that when disaster situations occur, it can bring out unwanted behaviors and even the most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, and try to escape, or bite and scratch. Be sure that you have a human first aid kit that can address any minor bites or scratches you may receive. Also, try to stay as calm as possible since our pets pick up on our emotions and may become more frantic.