Tips To Help You Protect Your Family And Your Pets In The Event Of A Disaster

Hurricane season is here again and all too often when a disaster strikes pets are left to fend for themselves and end up lost, injured or killed. The best way to avoid this tragic scenario is to have a well thought out disaster plan that includes your pet.

According to Jeanne M. Salvatore of  the  Insurance Information Institute, many public shelters that are set up for disaster victims don’t accept pets. So, before disaster strikes, you need to find out in advance which shelters or hotels along your evacuation route will accept pets.  A little advance planning is best way for everyone to survive the catastrophe and get their lives back to normal as soon as possible.

The I.I.I. offers the following tips to protect you, your loved ones and your pets in the event of a disaster:

1.     Have a Disaster Plan

  • Plan in advance where you will go and how you plan to get there.
  • Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
  • Put together a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians along the evacuation route and outside your area that might be able to shelter your pets in an emergency. Include emergency phone numbers.
  • Talk to your vet, the humane society or the local emergency management agency for information regarding community evacuation plans that include pets.
  • Make advance arrangements to have a friend or neighbor pick up your pets in the event you are not at home when a disaster strikes. And, plan where you will meet or how you will reach each other.
  • Review the I.I.I.’s five step evacuation plan and consider downloading the I.I.I. podcast on evacuation so you have it for easy reference on your PDA.
  • Take the Ten Minute Challenge to seeing how long it would take to get you, your family, your pets and all of your important items out of the house.

2.     Make a Grab-and-Go Disaster Kit for Your Pets

  • Medication and medical records (including proof of rabies vaccination) in a waterproof container.
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Leashes, harnesses, crates and carriers for transporting pets
  • A muzzle, if your pet requires one
  • Food and water for at least three days; a manual can opener
  • Cat litter and litter box
  • Comfort toys
  • Recent photo of you and your pet in case you become separated
  • Name and phone number of your veterinarian
  • If you have pet insurance, the insurance company contact information and policy number

3.     If You Must Evacuate, Take Your Pets

  • Be prepared to leave early; do not wait for an official evacuation as you might be ordered to leave your pets behind.
  • Keep pets on leashes or in carriers at all times.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing up-to-date identification. Include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your area in case your pet gets lost and you cannot be reached. And mark the crate or carrier with similar information.
  • Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the bird’s feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport; instead provide a few slices of fresh fruit or vegetables with high water content. 
  • Review the I.I.I.’s article on pet evacuation which includes more detailed information as well as evacuation tips for reptiles and pocket pets such as hamsters and gerbils. 

4.     After the Disaster

  • Once you return to your home, do not allow your pets to roam loose right away. While you assess the damage, keep dogs on a leash and other animals in their carriers.
  • Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet may become disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations, so give them some time to get used to their “new” surroundings.
  • Be patient. Try to get your pets back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be on the lookout for stress-related behavioral problems; if these persist, talk to your veterinarian.

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