Preparation for Your Pets
Pet owners want to do what's
best for their pets in case of a disaster. For reasons
related to health and space, pets are not allowed in public
emergency shelters, including those run by the American
Red Cross. The shelter must follow certain
regulations, and not allowing pets is one of them. You
must make other arrangements, and planning ahead for those
arrangements will make a difficult time much easier. The
worst scenario, leaving your pets at home, can usually be
In most states in the United
States, service, guide, and hearing dogs are allowed to stay in
emergency shelters with their owners; if you have one of these
dogs, check with your local emergency management officials
before a disaster hits.
Society of the United States (HSUS), the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the American
Red Cross work together in the U.S. during disasters.
The agencies agree that you should keep your pets with you if at
all possible, and agree that if your home isn't safe for you, it
isn't safe for your pets.
recommends that you put together a disaster supply kit packed in
a waterproof container for your pets. The container should have
three days to a week's worth of food and water, medications,
veterinary records, leashes or harnesses, a current photo of
your pets for identification purposes, paper towels, litter pan
and litter if you have a cat, sealable plastic bags, and an
extra leash and collar. Use flip-top canned food or
include a can opener. Place the photos in a sealable plastic
bag. These items will be of use whether you evacuate or are
sheltered in place. If your pet has medication that must be kept
cool, keep the medication in one of the sealable plastic bags
and ice it with ice from the Red
Cross. The HSUS
recommends that you have a carrier for each one of your
Replace the food in your
disaster kit on a regular basis so that it doesn't spoil.
Temporary paper tags from an office supply store can be used as
alternative identification tags could be useful if you need to
put a relative's phone number on the pet.
Fanciers' Association recommends that if you have to confine
cat(s) for a long period of time, have a carrier large enough to
hold a shoe box sized litter box, a water and food dish, and
room for the cat(s) to comfortably lie down. Ensure the carrier
is properly ventilated and not left in the sun. The Association
says that if you must take the cat out, do so in a confined
space as the cat may try to run away.
If you must shelter in place,
keep an eye on their whereabouts in case you need to
evacuate. It's best to bring them inside. Some animals
will hide during severe weather changes, so bring them inside
early and leash them when they are outside with you. Keep
plastic bags and newspapers inside to clean up pet waste.
Having a buddy system in
place before the disaster strikes is helpful, particularly if
you are not at home when the disaster hits but your pets
are. The buddy system allows a neighbor to have access to
your home so your pets can be fed or removed by your
neighbor. You can do the same for them.
If you need to evacuate,
bring your pets with you even if you think you'll only be gone
for a few hours; the severity of disasters can change quickly,
and you may not be allowed to go back to your home to get them.
It will help calm your pet if you bring a favorite blanket or
Evacuating will be much
easier if you already know in advance where you can go.
Both the HSUS
suggest you contact hotels and motels outside your area so you
know which ones accept pets; ask in advance about any
restrictions on number, size, and species. Also ask if no pet
policies are waived in an emergency. Make a list of the
places you can go to and keep it with your emergency phone
numbers; include area kennels on your list. Call ahead for a
reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your
Some local animal shelters
allow pets to stay there during an emergency; find out in
advance if yours does. Shelters have limited resources and
space and their energies will be elsewhere during an emergency,
so use this as a last resort.
urges people to leave early and not wait for a mandatory
evacuation order. If you delay leaving until emergency
officials insist upon it, you may be told to leave your pets
behind in a formal evacuation.
Unfortunately, there are
times when no matter how solid your plans are, the specifics of
the emergency dictate that your pets must remain at home. If
your dog normally wears a chain link choker collar, have a
leather or nylon collar available if you have to leave the dog
alone for several days. FEMA
suggests that you leave a two or three day supply of dry food,
even if it's not the pet's usual food. Don't moisten the food.
Leave the food in a sturdy container that the pet cannot
overturn. Leave water in a no-spill container. If possible, open
a faucet slightly and let the water drip into a big container.
Large dogs may be able to obtain fresh water from a partially
filled bathtub. Leave the pets in the safest room in the
house, such as a basement or bathroom.
The American Red
Cross suggests that birds should be transported in a secure
travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the
carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During
warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds' feathers
periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during
transport. Put some fresh fruits and vegetables with high water
content in the carrier. Have a photo for identification and leg
bands. If the carrier doesn't have a perch, line it with paper
towels and change them frequently. Don't let the birds out of
the cage or carrier.
Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they
must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the
evacuation site. If your snakes require frequent feedings,
carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking
as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards,
follow the same directions as for birds. For more information,
see Emergency Planning for Reptile and Amphibian Collections (http://www.anapsid.org/winteremergency.html).
Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be
transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the
animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and
Livestock have special disaster needs. http://www.hsus.org/ace/18733
by Phyllis DeGioia, editor of Veterinary Partner
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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