They are usually the smallest member of the family. In some cases they are just like one of the children. We are talking about your pet and they need to be included in any disaster plan just like any other member of the family.
First and foremost, your response to any natural disaster depends on what type of disaster it is. No matter what the disaster there is always the chance that you may have to evacuate your home. If this happens you have to have a plan for your family and that includes your pet.
The most important thing you can do to protect your pets during a disaster is to evacuate them when you evacuate the family. If you leave your pets behind there is a good chance that they may get injured, lost, or worse. Planning ahead will go a long way in making sure that your pet is safe.
The Red Cross disaster shelters can’t allow displaced families to bring their pets into the shelters because of states’ health and safety regulations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. Taking this into consideration, it is that much more important to find a place for your pets in case of evacuation. Do not wait until a disaster to attempt to find a place.
One option is to contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. There may be restrictions on number, size, and species of pets that hotels will accept, such as some hotels will take dogs but not cats and most will not allow reptiles. Ask if “no pet” policies are waived in an emergency. Make a list of “pet friendly” places and keep it with other disaster information and supplies.
You can also find friends, relatives, or others outside the area who may keep your pet until your family is allowed back into the evacuated area. If you have more than one pet, try and make it easier on friends and family but housing the animals separately, especially if the person who is agreeing to house your pet doesn’t have one of their own.
Sometimes boarding facilities and veterinarians may shelter animals in an emergency however the issue here is that during a disaster, this is the one option everyone considers so boarding houses and veterinarians may fill up quickly.
Animal shelters may offer to provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster, however during really big disasters such as Hurricane Katrina things were so confused many animal owners lost animals taken to shelters because shelter personnel were so overwhelmed. Animal shelters also have animals they were caring for before the disaster too so take this into consideration.
As part of your disaster kit that you assemble for your family be sure to include pet supplies. Just as you would create a duffle bag of supplies for each family member also create one for each pet. According to the Red Cross your pet disaster supply kit should include:
Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit with your pet in mind, Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can’t escape as well as current photos of your pets in case they get lost. Also include food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and a can opener. Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment’s notice.
When there is a hint of an impending disaster bring all your pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened with up-to-date identification. It is important to be ready instead of waiting until disaster strikes. In a panic you may forget something important.
If you are not home when the disaster hits plan out ahead of time with a trusted neighbor who would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But keep in mind that animals react differently under stress. It is important for this reason that you have dogs securely leashed and cats in transport carriers. Don’t leave animals unattended. Your cat carriers should be easily accessible and easy to use. There are a number of carriers on the market so find one that is comfortable for your pet.
Your pet is a part of your family so don’t forget them when it comes to protecting or ensuring that your family is ok during a disaster.