Emergency Preparedness for your Pet(s)
If you are like me, you probably have a pet. For me, my pet is a part of my family and has been included into my preparation plans. I would NEVER think of leaving him behind in a disaster. (He was also my partner for years, and at times risked his life for mine.)
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that there are 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Over 1/3 of all US households have a pet.
So if you are one of those people who have a pet, have YOU stopped to think about what you would do with them/for them should a disaster or emergency strike?
Any type of emergency or disaster preparedness starts with a plan, and the same is true for your furry or feathered friends. Formulating a plan now will save you time, energy, and potential heartache for you and your pet if the unforeseen happens.
I want to give you some tips and insights on how to come up with an emergency plan for your favorite animal companion. These include some overall general tips, some tips for bugging in with your pet, and some tips for bugging out with them.
The very first thing I would do is to have some sort of identification on each and every pet. Either a microchip or an ID tag on a collar. Or both. On the ID tag I would include the pet’s name and a way to contact you (a phone number) if the pet is lost.
I would have some current photos of your pet. Pics you can use for posters or flyers if your pet is lost. I would also have a picture or two of you and your pet together. This will help prove ownership of your pet.
Recent veterinarian records are also something I would have on hand. And you might consider storing a few extra medical supplies for your pet. There are easy to read first aid guides for pets that you might get a copy of. I would encourage you to read it and become familiar with it in case you cannot get to your veterinarian.
Have the name/number of your veterinarian, plus a few local emergency vets in case you cannot reach yours. I would also have the number (and location) of the local animal shelter. If your pet becomes lost or displaced, I would go there to see if they have your pet. Instead of calling, I would actually GO to the shelter. If your pet is not there, I would give them a picture of your pet and your contact information in case they come across your pet later.
In my experience with shelters, I have found that you and your pet are MUCH more likely to be remembered by shelter employees if you stop by in person with a photo. A picture of your animal will be seen by everyone there, and will make it easier to identify your pet if they happen to pick it up. If you can, make copies of the photo that you can leave with the shelter personnel.
If you have an exotic pet, like a lizard or bird, you need to have plans in place ahead of time to deal with them. For example, transporting parrots require different travel cage because their wings and feet could become entangled in a normal cage should they panic.
For reptiles, special care must be given for their food, many of whom prefer live prey. They may also require an addtional heat source or extra moisture and humidity. So make sure you have made arrangements to have those.
In a pinch, many birds and some reptiles can eat baby food in an emergency. Be sure to ask your veterinarian ahead of time about this.
Ultimately, you need to have the proper knowledge and equipment for these pets BEFORE you find yourself in an emergency setting. So study up on them and ask your vet.
If your plans for an emergency are to shelter in place, I am assuming that you have food and water set back for you and your family. Well what about Fido and/or Mittens? Your pets are going to need some of that water supply you have in reserve. So make sure to take them into account when storing water. Just like humans, I would set aside 1 gallon per day per pet.
And I would have AT LEAST a 7 day supply of food for them as well. I say have a 7-10 day supply because in a disaster setting, pet food is not always considered a priority. In a disaster area when relief supplies begin to arrive, they may not include pet food. It might take several more days until animal food begins arriving in the stricken area.
For me, I have an extra, large bag of dry dog food, as well as a few cans of moist food I keep in reserve. When one bag is empty, I open a new bag and then buy another bag. First in, first out. He goes through a bag of food about every 3 weeks. So between the extra bag and a few cans of food, I have at least a month’s worth of dog food on hand.
If your pet requires medication, I would have some extra on hand as well. This includes flea and tick meds. And I’d keep your pet(s) current and up to date on all of their shots.
If your pets are outdoors, have a place to keep them indoors. During an emergency, they could become frightened and try to escape. So I recommend bringing them indoors if possible.
They may seem overly excited or agitated. Animals can sense when something is amiss. So you will need a place that not only shelters them, but maybe also contains them. A large crate could be helpful. I’d also have some old blankets or pillows they could use.
Also keep in mind that some structures could be damaged, which might allow for your pet to escape. So have back up plans in place for keeping your pet contained.
Just like humans, your pets will need a place to “do their business”. Hopefully they are house trained or litter box trained. So have extra litter on hand. I’d also have a few extra supplies like an extra cat box scoper, trash bags, etc.
If for some reason it is not safe to go outside, I would have some extra newspapers or even “doggie pads” in storage. If you need to use them for your pets, I’d lay them in an area that is not high trafficked or close to food sources. I’d also have some extra bleach and other cleaning materials on hand to keep that area free of bacteria and odor.
Calm your pet. Rub them and let them know they are ok. This time could be a scary one for them, and they will look to you for reassurance. A favorite toy or familiar blanket will also help keep them calm.
I’d also encourage you to set up a “Buddy system” with a neighbor or nearby friend that you trust. Should disaster happen and you are not home, they could look after your pet until you return. You in turn would do the same for them. If there is a need to bug out, I would have a predetermined location set so that you can meet there to retrieve your pets.
If it is time to evacuate, I would NOT leave your pet behind. Instead, I would have already made arrangements to go to a place that is pet friendly, or have plans in place to leave them with a friend or family member who is not in the affected area.
I would have a strong, sturdy leash/harness for each animal, and your pet(s) should be adjusted to it beforehand. During an emergency bug out situation is NOT the time to try and get “Patches” used to a new harness or collar.
In addition, I’d also have a sturdy travel crate. The crate should be large enough that your pet can comfortably lay down in it. If you can find a mobile transport, even better.
If you know ahead of time where you are bugging out to, I would have the phone numbers and addresses to a few vets located in that area. I would keep that information, along with current vet records, in my bug out pack.
As a HUGE animal lover, I would encourage you to become active in local charities/associations for animals. I donate to the ASPCA and to the Humane Society. Both are excellent sources of information on pets and can help you further set up your emergency plans for your pet(s).
There are now websites and apps designed to help reunite pets and their owners. Check out EmergencyPetMatcher.com for more details.
Emergencies and disasters are a time of great stress. A pet can be a great comfort to you, and you can be a great comfort to them if you are prepared ahead of time for such circumstances.
Stay safe out there!
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