This week is National Disaster Preparedness Week, so I thought it appropriate to make sure that everyone is current on their information about what they might need in the case of a disaster.
Disasters can occur in many shapes and sizes. Depending on your location you should think about hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires or other natural disasters. Having a disaster plan for your family is important. Having one that includes your pets isn’t something people often think of. Planning for your pets should go into more detail than slapping on their leash, or putting them into their carrier and leaving.
- Medical records – this includes vaccine information with the Rabies certificate, information about any chronic diseases or other pertinent health information.
- Microchip – if your pet isn’t microchipped, do so. They are an inexpensive investment in the safety of your pet. Microchips are not GPS devices. They store a number, that when read by a scanner can link a person to your contact information. Is your pet already microchipped? Make sure your information is updated. If the most recent information on file for you is from 5 years ago when you lived in another state, it isn’t a very effective tool for reconnecting you with your pet if they are lost.
- Food/Medications – if a disaster is looming, go ahead and get enough food and medications for a couple of weeks. This will prevent you from having to scramble to find a veterinarian in another city. Also, if you are rationing water for your family, figure Fido in. A bird might not drink a lot of water (though they should be figured in too), but a 100lb Labrador will.
- Extras – I always keep an extra leash (the slip kind that are easy to just throw over a head), collar, food/water bowls and anything else that I think might make things more comfortable for my pet during a stressful situation. It is going to be hard enough to think of everything you might need for your family when a disaster happens. Storing some of these items can ensure that you are prepared for your pet and you don’t have to put much thought into it if that time comes
How will you get your pet to your desired destination? Do you have a destination in mind? Is that destination pet friendly? If you are going to a relative’s house, did you remember that Aunt June is severely allergic to cats? Or that Cousin Pete has a dog that’s aggressive toward other dogs?
- Destination – The simplest question to answer is whether or not your pet is going with you (or with a friend or family member) if you are forced to evacuate. A lot of evacuation centers don’t allow pets. If you are going to board him at your veterinary clinic, what will they do in case they have to evacuate? Do you know the hotels in your destination city that accept pets? What their weight limit is?
- Travel – How well does your pet travel? Have you planned for the cat that hates carriers? What about the dog that gets carsick? Do you know how to travel with your bird? Answering these questions ten minutes before you must evacuate is not the right kind of plan to have.
- Housing – If you have a physically small pet (ferret, rabbit, bird), are you able to transport their cage or do you need something smaller? Where will they go once you get to your destination? You can’t just let a ferret crawl around a hotel room. Sometimes investing in a smaller cage that can serve for travel and housing in the event of a disaster is a good preplan to have.
If you aren’t going to travel with your pet, these things are still relevant. You will need a disaster kit to ensure that you don’t have to go running errands if the streets are unsafe or the weather is bad. Identification is important since high winds can damage fences, making pet escape a greater possibility.
Worst Case Scenario
What will you do if your pet gets lost while traveling? Aside from having a microchip, do you know who or where you should call?
- Contact numbers – in your binder of medical records, you should include the numbers to the nearest humane society where you will be going. People will often bring lost pets to veterinary clinics too, so a current contact list should also go into your binder.
- Pictures – I would have one picture that will be good to make a flier out of and then other pictures that shows color patterns, distinguishing characteristics (like scars or other distinguishing characteristics). Trying to describe the horizontal (or was it vertical?) surgical scar on the right side (or was it left?) of the stomach, off the top of your head might make it harder for someone to identify your pet. These pictures should be updated as your pet’s appearance changes. This website has some good tips if your pet is lost.
The most important thing is to have a disaster plan in place that includes your pets. This plan should be updated annually and change to reflect any recent transitions you have gone through in your life.
This is a good resource that the AVMA puts out. It is more of a formal planning guide.
Tell me what you think ? What disaster plans do you have for your pets? Is there anything that I missed?