When a disaster strikes, pet lives are among the most vulnerable. Evacuating animals in any type of emergency—whether it’s a hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake—adds extra stress in a turbulent situation. However, experts from animal welfare organizations say caring for our furry, purring, feathered and scaly housemates is an imperative life-saving effort that can be carried out smoothly with forward planning.
Every effort should be made not to leave animals behind, supporters say. You may not be able to return home longer than expected, and abandoning pets can have “devastating consequences,” said Kelly Donithan, director of disaster relief at the Humane Society of the United States.
“If you’re leaving for any reason, don’t think it’s safe to leave her behind,” Ms. Donithan said.
Experts stressed that a successful evacuation with your pets depends on measures you can take before the threat of an emergency is imminent.
“Each story will be unique,” said Dr. Lori Teller, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Pre-planning definitely makes the whole ordeal a lot easier.”
Prepare to go.
Make sure your pets wear collars with clear, up-to-date identification and your contact information. A GPS collar might also come in handy, especially if you have an anxious pet who tends to attempt escapes in stressful situations, said Jason Cohen, a New York City-based dog trainer.
You will need a sturdy leash and a carrying case or box with your contact information. Consider getting a replacement attachment for your pet’s collar, e.g. B. a metal carabiner or double clip accessory to provide extra security in case a collar accidentally detaches.
Your pets may not be used to travel, so introducing them to different modes of transportation can help. Know the different evacuation routes and practice them in advance.
“If you know where you’re going, if you know your routes, if you have all the supplies you need, that’s the best scenario,” Ms. Donithan said.
Put together a disaster kit for your pet.
Emergencies can strike at any time, so this kit should be regularly updated and kept in a convenient, easily accessible place in your home, advocates said.
The kit should contain enough non-perishable food and water to last at least a week.
It should also contain:
food and water containers
first aid kit
a supply of medication for a few weeks, if necessary
a printed document or a USB stick with medical records, such as B. a rabies vaccination card, important details about your pet’s diet, behavioral issues and contact information for your veterinarian, all in one waterproof container
a toy or two for the idle hours
Hygiene items such as poop bags or a litter box
a recent picture of you and your pet in case you later need to prove or reclaim ownership
Contact your veterinarian.
Microchips, small transponders embedded in a pet’s skin and linked to the owner’s identification and contact information, can be scanned later if the pet is lost. According to experts, having your pet microchipped by a veterinarian is a must. It doesn’t end there. You must register this information in an online database and verify that the registration is linked to your name and phone number. After registration, microchip numbers can be searched here.
To relieve your pet’s anxiety there are a variety of dietary supplements available, some available by prescription. You might consider talking to your vet about what might be appropriate for your pet, said Dr. Plate.
Possible remedies include drugs like trazodone and hemp-based CBD products.
These tools should be tested prior to an emergency, especially if you already know your pet may be anxious in certain situations, such as when traveling, added Ms. Donithan.
Keep vaccinations up to date and consider getting pet insurance.
Find accommodation for your pet.
Ideally, you can stay with your pet during a disaster, and there are many hotels that allow pets. Shelters in your community may not allow pets, so check with local safety agencies for their general guidelines.
If you can’t find a place to stay for your pet, create an alternative placement plan by checking out nearby animal shelters, boarding kennels, or out-of-town family members or friends that your pet could stay with temporarily.
Refresh the training.
Steps like crate training, which consists of preparing your pet to spend quiet time in its kennel, “could be a lifesaver in emergency situations,” Mr. Cohen said.
“Having a dog comfortable in a crate helps ensure they are safe and not causing more stress,” added Mr. Cohen.
And it goes beyond dogs. Many animals, including ferrets, pigs and rabbits, can be crate trained, Ms Donithan said.
To help your pets adjust to their time in the crate, you can feed them regular meals inside, creating comfort and positive connections to their portable home. They can also toss treats in and out of the box to help them develop their ease of entering and exiting a pet carrier, Mr. Cohen said.
It might also be useful to brush up on “come” command, good walking habits and identifying your pet’s hiding spots around the home.
Knowing what to do when a disaster strikes.
Don’t wait for the mandatory evacuation order. Stay informed by monitoring various websites including ready.gov and opting in to receive emergency alerts through your smartphone settings. You should also monitor updates from your local community and emergency services. Then evacuate as soon as possible. It gives you more flexibility and keeps you and your pets calmer.
You can do most of the work before you actually evacuate, Ms Donithan said. In an active emergency, the aim is to implement the plan that has already been made.
“If it happens, it will go as well as you have practiced or how well prepared you are,” Ms. Donithan added.
Contact your local emergency management office to see if there are temporary housing options for you and your pet. If not, rely on your alternatives.
Certain pets require special care. For birds, depending on the weather, you will need a blanket to cover the stretcher and trap heat, or a spray bottle to dampen the feathers. If you have a reptile, you need a sturdy bowl for your pet to soak in and something to warm them with. Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase. Special considerations also apply to livestock and horses.
The experience could be traumatic for both you and your pet. Some signs of stress your pet might show, such as panting, moderate nausea, and tremors, might be normal. But other indicators — excessive vocalizations or dangerous attempts to break out of confinement — could require medical attention, Dr. Plate. It can be helpful to understand the basics of pet first aid with an app like this from the Red Cross.
And if you must leave your pets behind, take appropriate action. Leave plenty of food and fresh water and do not tie your pet. Increase awareness of your pet’s location by notifying local law enforcement, animal control officers, and animal shelters.
Also, post a notice outside your home where rescue teams can see stating that you have a pet and where it is located, and include your contact information. You can order an emergency decal to put on your window or door from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
If flooding is likely, place your pet at the highest point in your home.
Set back to normal.
If your pet goes missing, contact your local animal shelter and seek help on neighborhood social media. You can also post a notice in microchip databases or print flyers and offer your pet a treat.
When you return home, keep in mind that the transition will not be seamless. The environment, including smells and appearance, may no longer be familiar to your pet. Supervise your pet carefully and patiently help them adjust indoors.