Disaster preparation for your pets should cover anything from you having to be away from home unexpectedly, to house fires, weather disasters and emergency or permanent evacuations. Let’s go over some steps you can take to make sure your pets are safe in case of a disaster.
Pet Disaster Preparedness
Choose a Designated Caregiver. If you have to be away from home unexpectedly because of an accident, emergency or sudden illness, you should have both a temporary and a permanent designated caregiver for your pets. A temporary caregiver should be someone who lives nearby and is usually home during the day, such as a neighbor who is retired. They should have a key to your home along with a short description, perhaps written on a 3×5 card, of your pet’s food, medication and potty schedule. If your neighbor also has pets, you can offer to be a temporary caregiver for their pets as well.
A permanent caregiver should be someone who is willing to either foster your pet until a suitable home can be found, or else adopt your pet long term. This should be someone you trust, ideally someone who your pet knows, and someone who has experience caring for pets. Be sure to have a thorough discussion regarding your pet’s needs and make sure the person is in agreement with being your pet’s long-term caregiver if anything should happen to you.
Choose a Safe Place for Your Pet. Investigate possible places ahead of time where your pet could stay if there’s a disaster. Don’t leave your pets behind if there is danger. If your home is unsafe for you, then it’s unsafe for your pets as well. Local shelters who house people don’t always allow pets, so it’s important for you to know ahead of time a few options for where your pet can stay. If you don’t have a trusted friend, neighbor or family member who can care for your pet, consider these options:
Make a list of boarding kennels and animal shelters nearby. Your veterinarian may be able to make a recommendation. Contact each one and ask if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
Call a few hotels and motels and ask if they could accommodate your pet in case of a disaster. You should include some outside of your immediate area in case evacuation is necessary.
Prepare for Weather Disasters
If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or floods, you should make plans ahead of time and have emergency supplies on hand. Remember to always get your pet inside at the first sign of severe weather. Pets can become disoriented, wander away and get lost in severe weather.
Choose a room in your house that doesn’t have windows. This may be a utility room, bathroom or basement. If there’s a flood, go to the highest location in your house or a room where there are shelves or counters where your pets could go.
Have supplies such as gallons of water and food for your family and pets stored in your house.
If You Have to Evacuate
If you must evacuate your home, prepare as if you won’t be allowed to return for several weeks. Follow the instructions from state and local officials, and have these things in place ahead of time:
Make sure your pets have identification. You can get a tag with your pet’s name and your cell phone number from www.PetTags.com to attach to your pet’s collar. If your pet has a serious medical condition, try to note that on the tag.
Put your pet’s name and your contact information on their carrier. You can write the information on a square sticker to put on the carrier. Add medical information if applicable.
Consider microchipping your pet. Microchips are implanted under the skin and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters. They contain the pet’s name and your contact information. Ask your veterinarian for information about this.
Put together an emergency kit for your pets. This could include:
Disposable litter pan
Food and water bowls
Collars, harnesses and leashes
A two-week supply of medications (make sure they’re not expired)
A carrier for each pet with their name, contact info and medical info
A recent photo of your pet in case you get separated.
Click HERE for a printable Pet Disaster Kit Checklist
Prepare for House Fires
Do some planning ahead of time in case you had to grab your pets and get out of the house quickly, like in case of a house fire. Have a pet rescue plan in place covering these points:
Decide who will be in charge of rescuing your pets if there’s a fire. You might practice fire drills as a family so your pets are not left behind.
Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared ahead of time. Also make sure that each family member knows where the kit is and decide who will grab it in case of a fire.
Use Pet Rescue Alert Stickers. These are stickers you put on a window or door of your house that will be visible to rescue workers. Near the front and rear doors is recommended. It should include the types and number of pets in your home, your name and cell number, and the name and number for your veterinarian. You might also write your pet’s favorite hiding spots on the stickers in case you weren’t able to grab your pet on your way out of the house. If there’s time, write the word, “evacuated” across the stickers if you’ve been able to get your pet out.
To get free emergency pet alert stickers from the ASPCA for your home, click here. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. You may also be able to get these at your local pet supply store.
Pet Emergency Preparedness
For more detailed information about pet emergency preparedness, and also about emergency preparedness for horses, birds, reptiles and small animals, visit the ASPCAs website HERE. For more information about protecting your pets from house fires, check out this article.
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