When putting together an emergency preparedness plan, do not forget about your furry family friends. You need a plan that includes a way to deal with the family dogs and cats in times of disaster.
One of the issues that emerged from the 2005 Katrina hurricane disaster was the problem of what to do with pets. Thousands of family pets were abandoned during the Katrina evacuations and many have never been re-united with their owners. There were stories of people who refused to leave their pets behind and had to be taken away forcibly, or they stayed behind and perished with the rising flood waters.
During emergency evacuations, people are typically not allowed to take their pets with them. The logic behind this is simple: there is usually not enough shelter and food to deal with the humans being evacuated and therefore pets are left behind. During Hurricane Katrina, it was just not possible to deal with the issues related to providing food and shelter for animals when there were so many problems just trying to provide basic necessities for people. In the case of Hurricane Gustav in 2008, pets were evacuated along with their human families, but were taken to pet shelters and separated from their owners. There are lessons to be learned from both of these storm disasters.
First, make sure that each of your pets is wearing a secure collar with a tag containing your name and cell phone number, just in case you are separated from your pet. If there is room on the tag, add the pet’s name and the home address. In times of emergency, it does not do much good to use a home telephone number, because if you are evacuated, there isn’t anyone at home to answer the phone. The chances are that the phone will be not operate anyway. You can be reached on a cell phone even if you are evacuated to another state. We recently experienced that with family members involved in the February 2009 ice storm that cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes in Kentucky and Arkansas. The power was out for more than a week in many areas. In addition, there was no heat or local phone service. Cell phones, however, did work, which allowed people to communicate with family members throughout the country. Always take your cell phone with you, as well as both a 110 volt and 12 volt (auto) charger. That way, you can always find a way to charge the phone.
In addition to a collar with a cell phone number, make sure that you have an emergency preparedness kit for your dog or cat with the following essential items. It would be ideal if this is packed in a shoulder bag or something that you can take with you if you have the ability to leave the area with your pet.
- Food and water for a week, plus food and water dishes.
- Any pet medications that your dog or cat may require.
- A dog or cat first aid kit. These are available online of through most pet stores.
- A leash and/or carrier.
- Blankets and towels. You can always make a warm bed for a cat or a dog with towels.
- Current pictures of your pets. You may need these if you get separated from your furry friends.
- Copies of vaccination records. These may be required by private shelters if you have to board your pets.
- if you can, try to include poop bags and kitty litter.
You can avoid much of the worry of being separated from your pets if you have the ability to jump in your car and escape to another area with them. But in the case of major disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, blizzards and wildfires, this is not always possible. Escape routes frequently get cut off and you may have to be evacuated by helicopter or other means.
The best emergency preparedness plan is one where you plan for the worst case and consider all possible scenarios for disasters and escape routes. If your family pets are important to you–and most are–do not forget your furry family friends in your emergency preparedness plan.