Prepare Your Pets for Disaster

Let’s say you’re all ready for hurricane season. You stocked up on non-perishable food and water, you have an evacuation plan, etc. etc. That’s great! Hopefully we have all learned by now that natural disasters can and will strike at any time, and being prepared can not just keep you comfortable but save your life. But what about the pets? Many people forget about their pets in their planning, only to panic at the last minute when they realize their only option is to leave them in the danger of the storm.

If you plan includes waiting until the last minute and then heading for a public shelter, keep in mind that they don’t allow pets. Leaving your pets in the house with some extra food as if you were going on vacation is risky, since this could result in losing them and they may not survive if things get bad enough.

You should have two plans in place: One in case you must evacuate and the other if you can stay at home.

If you must evacuate, pick a place to go like the home of a friend or family member outside the danger zone. If you don’t have that option, find a pet-friendly hotel. It might cost you some unexpected money for your unplanned vacation, but it could save your life. If you stay in a hotel, call ahead and make reservations. You can cancel them if you don’t need them, but if you don’t have any you’ll be in competition with everybody else with the same plan. If you end up needing to go to a shelter, find out if any animal shelters, boarding kennels or veterinarians are offering pet shelter. Also, some areas may designate pet-friendly shelters. Again, the key is to find out this information ahead of time.

Even if conditions will be safe for you to stay at home, you should prepare for the possible prolonged lack of electricity and water. Don’t forget your pets in this plan. Make sure you have water for all of you and plenty of extra pet food, litter and other supplies (including medication) in addition to your human supplies. Planning for two weeks is a good idea.

In either scenario, there are a few other things you can do in the event your plans change unexpectedly or you get separated from your pet. Make sure you have carriers or crates for all your pets along with waterproof identification. Make sure any pets with collars also have identifying tags. Do this even if they are also microchipped (which is another good idea in general, especially if you have a little escape artist). Storms can frighten animals, and property damage can allow them to run off. So if you have to take them with you away from home, or even if you stay put, you will have a better chance of reuniting if you get separated when all the pets can be identified.

If you must evacuate with your pets, make a list of items they need. Don’t forget medications, plenty of food, litter and litter pans for cats (even if you’re staying with relatives, you don’t know how prepared they will be for your pets), your pets’ favorite toys or sleeping materials, collars and leashes, and identifying material. If your pets eat canned food, don’t forget a can opener! And finally, if you have a large dog, particularly one who isn’t comfortable with other people, you should take precautions that that animal is secure, in a carrier or crate, a good leash and even a muzzle. Again, animals in a storm can become terrified and panic, so be prepared to handle this type of behavior – in any pet.

Again, all planning – for both people and pets – should be done before the disaster strikes. We all think it won’t happen to us, but if it does and we’re not ready the price we pay could be high. Getting through an emergency situation, even if you planned well, is stressful for everyone. But you can reduce a great deal of that stress if you prepare well in advance and know you – and your pets – will make it through safely.

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