Keeping Pets Safe During a Natural Disaster

Disasters aren't always predictable, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to prepare for one. However, even when people do think to prepare for such events, it's unfortunately quite common for people to forget to make preparations for their pets. While it's certainly important to have an evacuation plan, a disaster kit, and a designated meeting area for your loved ones, it's equally as important to have a plan in place for your pets. In the worst cases, you may be required to evacuate your home or parts of your home may be damaged. In cases such as this, having a plan in place to care for your pet can help keep your furry friends safe.

Creating Your Pet Disaster Kit

Just like people should create disaster kits for themselves and their families, pet owners should have a disaster kit ready for all pets in the household. It's likely that many of the items that should be included in your kit will already be available in your home, but having them stored in a separate kit can make evacuation much quicker and easier in an emergency situation.

Most important are food and water. Potential disasters could require you to prepare anywhere from one day's worth to a week's worth of food and water for your pet. These items should be stored in airtight containers. Also, dogs and cats should have collars with tags listing current contact information for their owners as well as the animal's vaccination status. Pet owners should also have leashes and harnesses ready. Harnesses are important to have during a crisis, as an anxious animal may be prone to tugging or even slipping out of a collar.

Certain animals, such as smaller caged pets and cats, may also require litter or clean bedding, so owners of these animals should also include adequate supplies of these as well as plastic bags for their disposal and cleaning agents for sanitation purposes.

Copies of all records for the pet should be included in a pet disaster kit. Additionally, pet owners might consider taking a photo of themselves with their pet to help with identification in case the pet becomes lost. Most organizations recommend microchipping pets, especially dogs, as this can help with the process of returning animals to their families if they're separated during a disaster.

In the unfortunate case that a pet becomes injured, pet owners will benefit from having learned at least rudimentary first aid procedures for animals. While it's no surprise that animal anatomy differs from that of humans, in an emergency situation, defaulting to human first aid procedures could result in further injury or even death to a wounded animal.

A crate or pet carrier would also be a good thing to have on hand to help keep your pets safely restrained during evacuation or while in pet-friendly rescue shelters.

Know Where to Get Help

Even during crises and disasters, not all organizations will welcome pets. The Red Cross, for example, will usually not allow victims of disasters to bring pets to its shelters unless they are service animals.

The worst thing you can do is to leave your pet behind during an evacuation, as this drastically increases the chances of the pet becoming injured or lost. That's why it's important to have a safe refuge for your family, including your pets, picked out before a disaster strikes. Ideally, your chosen location will be far enough away from your home that it's unlikely to be affected by the disaster but close enough to be accessible.

Some animal shelters may accept pets during disasters, and pet-friendly hotels may also welcome families and their animals. Be sure to call your chosen location to confirm that they will accept pets during an evacuation. You may also consider collaborating with another pet owner in your neighborhood to make sure that everyone's pets are kept safe. Should a disaster occur when you're not home, knowing that the pets you left behind will be taken care of by someone you trust will not only put your mind at ease but also help keep your pets safe.

By: Steven Moore

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