Disasters and emergencies happen at a moment’s notice and vary in severity. Many families have prepared an emergency plan, but have not included their pets. Here’s how you can keep your pet safe during emergencies in five easy steps.
Step 1: Know your region’s climate
In Florida, we see a variety of natural disasters, such as floods, tropical storms, hurricanes, and tornados. Other parts of the country with cooler climates deal with blizzards and icy conditions.
Start preparing your pet’s disaster plan by studying your property and becoming familiar with all the possible evacuation routes from your house. With hurricanes and flooding in mind, do you know your home’s elevation level and flood history? This knowledge will help you develop an effective emergency plan for your entire family.
Step 2: Plan your evacuation with your pet
Every second counts when you need to evacuate, and having a plan in place before disaster hits will save time and reduce stress. Emergencies are often chaotic, and pets can become scared and attempt to escape. If your pet is lost during an emergency, her chances of being reunited with you are greatly increased if she is microchipped. About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a permanent form of identification that is placed under the pet’s skin. When a lost pet is taken to a shelter or veterinary hospital, she will be scanned for a microchip. If the microchip is registered with the owner’s current contact information, the pet and the owner can be reunited.
It’s also important to decide ahead where you and your pets will go in the event of an evacuation. Do your research and contact each local pet-friendly establishment, inquiring about their health and vaccine policies, because most boarding facilities will require that your pet’s vaccinations be up-to-date. Consider the following safe places:
- Local shelters
- Relatives’ or friends’ homes
- Local boarding facilities
- Local pet hotels
Step 3: Prepare your pet’s emergency kit
Your pet’s emergency kit must include all her basic needs in an easily accessible, water-proof container. We recommend you include the following items:
- Two-week supply of food and water
- Food and water bowls for each pet
- Crate or carrier with bedding
- Well-fitting collar or harness with a leash and identification tag
- Familiar belongings, such as a favorite toy or blanket, that will remind your pet of home
- Elimination items, including plastic bags for dog poop, or cat litter and litter box, and cleaning supplies, such as paper towels, newspaper, and disinfectant spray
- Two-week supply of medication, with instructions
- Documentation that includes medical records, vaccine history, microchip information, prescriptions, and proof of registration
- Photo of you and your pet, which can be used as ownership documentation and can help you find your pet in case she becomes lost
- Pet first-aid kit, which should include:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Dose syringe
- Antibacterial soap
- Dish detergent
- Rubbing alcohol
- Digital thermometer
- Water-based lubricant
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Veterinarian-recommended antihistamine
- Latex gloves
- Cotton balls
- Sterile gauze pads and wrap
- Ace bandages
- Bandage tape
Step 4: Know what to do when a disaster hits
Disaster may strike when you are not at home, so action plans for when you are away or at home are important. Make arrangements with someone you trust to care for your pet if disaster strikes when you are away. Give this person your house key, let her know where your pet’s emergency kit is kept, and designate a meeting place.
If you plan to stay home during a hurricane or other event, bring your pets indoors at the first sign of danger and close off any small hiding spaces so you can gather your pets immediately if you need to leave. Put all your emergency supplies together in one spot so they are easily accessible in the event of an evacuation.
Step 5: Keep your pet safe after a disaster
Never allow pets to roam loose after a natural disaster, because the damage may be excessive and pets can get disoriented or lost in the chaos and confusion. While you assess the damage to your property, also keep an eye out for lost animals and wildlife that could pose a threat to you and your pets.