Anyone who has been hanging out here for awhile knows that my little four legged friend, Tucker The Dog, is an important part of my family. He is my constant companion and he brings me smiles when I am stressed and comfort when I am sad. Life without him is unimaginable.
Something that all of us with pets need to face is that in the event of a disaster, our animals may be at risk. Today I offer tips for creating a disaster plan and a disaster kit for your pet.
Before the Disaster – 8 Things You Can Do Now
1. Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations, Yes we know that vaccines (for humans) can be ineffective and sometimes harmful, but this may not only protect them from the nasties, but will also insure that they will not be turned away from a pet or people shelter.
2. Keep a copy of your pet’s license, vaccination records and a current photograph in your bug-out-bag, first aid kit, or on the flash drive that you carry on your person at all times.
3. Make sure that the ID tags worn on your pet are current and that they include your emergency contact information.
4. Micro-chip your pet. A microchip is permanent and will identify your pet if he becomes lost. The cost is low and virtually all shelters and veterinary clinics can read the information on the chip, greatly increasing the likelihood that you will be reunited.
5. Invest in a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal. Your carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand and turn around and if possible, large enough for some food and water as well. Be sure that your name, cell phone number and email address are marked on the carrier. I know this is being redundant, but include another copy of your pet’s vaccination records and the contact information for your veterinarian taped to a bag on the outside of your pet carrier.
6. Identify possible boarding facilities or shelters for your pet in advance. The possibilities include specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives that live out of harm’s way. In the unlikely chance that you will need to evacuate and leave your home, you will need to know your options so it is best to do your research now, when you have the luxury of time.
Note: Many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. One thing you can do in advance is identify which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to will allow pets. If a hurricane or flood is predicted in your area, consider moving yourself, your family, and your pets out of harms way well in advance of the predicted storm.
7. Find a trusted neighbor and give them a key to your house. Make sure this person is comfortable and familiar with your pets and knows our pet’s whereabouts and habits. This way they will not have to waste precious time trying to find or catch your pet if you can not make it home during an emergency. The best way to do this is to make a reciprocal arrangement so you can also keep watch for their pets.
8. Have a window sign ready to go that includes a picture of your pet and the words “PET INSIDE”. This will alert emergency personnel to the fact that there is an animal in your home that may need to be rescued.
During the Disaster
Bring your pets inside immediately. Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
Be sure to have newspapers or puppy pads on hand for sanitary purposes. If you can, feed the animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
If you evacuate your home, try not to leave your pets behind. Pets most likely cannot survive on their own; and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.
If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!
- Confine your pet to a safe area inside — NEVER leave your pet chained outside!
- Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water.
- Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink.
- Place a large notice in the window or outside your home in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. (Use the sign you created before the disaster.)
- Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your vet.
Animals brought to a pet shelter will be required to have proper identification including, a collar, leash, and a rabies tag. Be sure to bring with you an ample supply of food and water plus any special instructions and medication. It would not hurt to include a favorite toy or blanket. And for goodness sake, take steps now to housetrain your pet!
Pet shelters, if available, are typically filled on first come, first served basis. Be sure to call ahead and determine availability.
After the Disaster
Your pet may be disoriented and even aggressive after a major disaster. Like you, they will be stressed.
Be patient and walk your pet around the premises with a leash on until they become re-oriented to your home – often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
If your pet is lost and cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet and if you can, assist in the rescue operation.
The Pet Survival Kit
You have prepared a survival kit for yourself, now get to it and prepare a kit for your pet as well. The following suggestions are basics that apply whether you are bugging in or, in the case of an evacuation, bugging out.
- Proper identification including vaccination records, photo and micro-chip identification number
- Food – preferably dry kibble if that is what your pet is accustomed to eating
- Bottled water or a source of purified water
- Pet snacks or treats
- Collapsible food bowl
- Pet carrier
- Pet Medications, if needed
- Collar, leash, and if needed, a harness or muzzle
- Chew toys and a favorite blanket
- Pet first aid kit (see suggestions below)
- Puppy pads that can be used if the you are confined indoors
- Baggies for waste cleanup
- Sweater or jacket, especially in cold climates
Pet First Aid Kit
The topic of first aid for pets warrants an entire article of its own. For now, however, I would like to share some suggestions from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Gauze: For wrapping wounds or muzzling the injured animal
- Nonstick bandages, towels, or strips of clean cloth: To control bleeding or protect wounds
- Adhesive tape for bandages: For securing the gauze wrap or bandage. Do not use human adhesive bandages (such as Band-Aids®) on pets
- Milk of magnesia or Activated charcoal: To absorb poison.
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%): To induce vomiting
- Digital Thermometer: To check your pet’s temperature. Do not insert a thermometer in your pet’s mouth—the temperature must be taken rectally. Note: you will need a “fever” thermometer because the temperature scale of regular thermometers doesn’t go high enough for pets
- Eye dropper (or large syringe without needle): To give oral treatments or flush wounds
The Final Word
Those little four legged furry friends we call our pets can easily be at risk when disaster strikes. We need to do as much as we can, in advance, to insure that these special loved ones make it through the crisis so that you can successfully be united when the emergency passes.
Remember, the single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. Still need convincing?
- Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed.
- Animals left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows.
- Animals turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.
- Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.
Your pets deserve better.
Even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your pets. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets until it is too late. If an evacuation is anticipated. Don’t wait. Leave early. After all, an unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.