Protecting Your Pets During An Emergency

As we’ve all seen on the news recently, natural or other disasters can occur at any time. In the Bay Area, fires, earthquakes, and, as we saw just a few years ago, even flooding can result in Silicon Valley homeowners having to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Creating an emergency preparedness plan is vital to ensure we can get out of our home quickly and safely and that we have the necessities to tide us over until we can either return home or find shelter. Though many of us may have given some thought to this plan for ourselves, we also need to create a strategy to protect our furry family members during a disaster.

Below are six steps to protecting your pets during an emergency:

  1. Pet Identification
    Ensure your dogs and cats each have a collar with up-to-date tags that include the pet’s name, your name, and phone number. In the event your pet escapes or gets lost, this offers the easiest way to identify your pets and contact you in the aftermath of a disaster or emergency. Having your animals micro-chipped is also a good idea especially in the event that collars are lost. When doing this, be sure to fill in all of the relevant information for each pet and update should you move or change contact information.
  2. Pet Rescue Alert Sticker
    Many pet stores sell pet alert stickers or you can obtain a free one from the ASPCA. Placed on or near the main entrance to your home, this decal notifies rescue workers that pets live at your home and could be inside. On the decal, indicate the type and number of pets as well as the name and phone number for your veterinarian. If during an emergency, you evacuate and take your pets with you, write EVACUATED across the sticker (only if time and safe conditions allow.)
  3. Practice Escape Routes
    The front door may not always provide the safest means of exit. Because of this, it is important to identify other ways to get out of your home during an emergency. It is equally important to practice using these escape routes with your animals in advance to determine if they are feasible. Be sure to have items such as leashes and pet carriers, and emergency “evac” kits near these routes. Know your pets’ preferred places to nap or hide so you can quickly locate them in an emergency situation.
  4. Predetermine An Emergency Safe Haven
    Not all public shelters allow animals. Take time to do your research beforehand, locating shelter that welcome pets in addition to identifying alternate locations, such as pet-friendly hotels or boarding facilities and kennels where your pets are ensured safety is a critical thing to know before disaster strikes.
  5. Pet Emergency Kit
    Just as you should have an emergency kit for the humans of the household, you will also need one for your pets. According to the ASPCA, this pet “evac pack” should include:

    • Pet first-aid kit and guide book (consult your vet on necessary items to include)
    • Your vet’s contact information
    • 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
    • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
    • Litter or paper toweling
    • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
    • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
    • Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
    • Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
    • Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Note: food and medications should be rotated out of your emergency kit and replaced to ensure they don’t expire or go bad.)
    • At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
    • A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
    • Flashlight
    • Blanket
    • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
    • Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
    • Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner
  6. Establish a Buddy System
    before an issue arises, designate neighbors, friends, or family that live nearby and can evacuate your animals if you are not home. These people should also be prepared to care for your pets if you are unable to reach them or if you are displaced for a long duration and can’t have your animals in your new place of shelter. Be sure these people have access to your home as well as supplies and health records for each of your animals.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, most often referred to as FEMA also has a helpful print-out that details key aspects of pet emergency preparedness.

The ASPCA offers a free smartphone app for iPhones and Android phones that allows you to store you pet’s vital health information, create digital flyers to post on social media should your animal become lost, as well as provides critical information, news, and advice necessary during a disaster even if there is no connectivity.

For a more detailed list of all of the above steps in addition to special consideration for horses, reptiles, birds, and small animals, visit the ASPCA’s dedicated animal preparedness site.

Taking these precautions in advance of an unexpected situation can ensure you and your pets make it out safe and with the necessary supplies. It is always better to be prepared and never need to implement your plan than to be faced with an emergency without a plan in place.

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