What If Disaster Strikes?
June is quickly approaching and for most coastal regions the thought of a hurricane begins to creep into our minds.
We become concerned about the safety of our homes, our pets and ourselves.
However, hurricanes are not the only disasters that can confront our well being and that of our pets. Floods, wildfires, tornadoes, riots and terrorists attacks add to the list of things that can happen.
The important thing is to have a plan. Hurricane Katrina was a disaster that displaced not only thousands of people but displaced many animals and unfortunately many died along with their owners. It is said that approximately 44 percent of Hurricane Katrina’s victims were pet owners that would not leave their pets.
Until Katrina hit, our country was not too pet friendly in the light of disasters. Most, if not all, did not allow pets of any kind to be brought to a designated shelter.
Currently many states are now providing shelters for owners and their pets providing they follow certain restrictions. Red Cross shelters however, will not allow pets. It is not their rule, but that of the local health departments. A Red Cross shelter is for the benefit of those who do not have pets, who are afraid of pets or who have allergies to pets.
It is up to “you” the pet owner to check your local facilities and see what shelters will allow pets and what size and kind of pet is allowed.
Planning ahead for yourself and your pet should be at the top of your list of things to do. The problem with advance preparing is that many of us go into the “denial mode.” We tell ourselves that whatever the disaster is “it is not going to involve us.” Then it hits and we are not even prepared for ourselves let alone our pets.
So what should a pet owner do? In the following paragraphs I am going to give you some tips on how to keep your cat or dog as safe as humanly possible. The important thing is to remember you need to prepare before a disaster strikes.
A disaster kit should be large enough to contain all the things you normally need for your pet for at least a 7-day period. It should be waterproof (a plastic container with a tight fitting lid) and labeled “disaster supplies cat or dog.”
Food: Pack the brand your pet is used to eating, both canned and dry. Smaller cans are better, as pets in a disrupted setting tend to eat less.
Take along a can opener (even if the cans have lift tabs, some times they do not work.)
Bowls for food and a plastic lid cover for uneaten canned food. Keep uneaten opened cans in a cooler. A spoon or two might be helpful to dish out the canned food.
Water: Enough water for at least a week. Do not keep water in a disaster kit for more than 3 months at a time and store it in a cool dark place.
A water bowl along with a small bottle of bleach, to use if necessary to purify undrinkable water.
Sanitation Supplies: Kitty litter and a litter box for the cat. Take enough litter to use for at least a week along with small plastic bags to dispose of the litter when cleaning out the box.
For your dog take a “pooper scooper” and plastic bags to dispose of the waste.
Cleaning supplies: Paper towels for accidents and to use for cleaning litter box, food dishes, crate or carrier.
Dish soap and some disinfectant for cleaning crates, carriers and assorted possible messes.
Pictures: Have recent photos of your pet, take several or make copies in case you need to do posters if the pet gets lost.
Have a picture of you with your pet, great for identification should the pet get lost and someone finds it. This is very important.
Veterinary Information: You will need the recent records of your pet’s shots and vaccinations.
You need to take a supply of any medication your pet is currently taking.
Write you Vet’s name, address, and phone number on a piece of paper. Include also a note giving permission for another person besides you to get emergency treatment for your pet if you are not available.
Also have your name, all available telephone numbers that can reach you, address and any other info, so if you and your pet get separated you can be found.
Put all this information in a zip lock plastic bag.
Collars, tags and ID: Get your cat used to wearing a break away collar with an ID tag on it.
Have your dog wearing one at all times.
Get your pet a microchip and sign up with the national registry.
Have several ID tags in case one gets lost.
Use a harness on your cat to keep it on a leash, do not depend on the collar. More cats have been lost with collars on as they can get out of them. Have your cat practice wearing a harness at home a few hours at a time,
Have several leashes (one may get lost) and keep your pet on a leash if it is not in a crate or carrier.
Always know where your pet is at all times.
Miscellaneous articles: Toys, grooming supplies, dry shampoo, flea protection, extra towels, and treats.
Crate or carrier: Make certain the crate or carrier is big enough for the pet to move around comfortably and has room for food dishes and water if necessary.
Crates (for dogs) take up a great deal of room and the ideal product would be a collapsible wire crate with a sturdy lock.
Possible containment for a small or mid sized dog could be a collapsible exercise pen, just make certain the dog cannot dig out or crawl under it. Fasten it down with a stake driven into the ground and fastened to the pen.
First aid kit: Put together a small first aid kit that contains bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, some medicated cream recommended by your vet, some tweezers and scissors and a cold/hot pack.
Keep in a watertight container.
These are just a few suggestions to guide you in preparing for a disaster. The most important thing is to be prepared and ready to move when the time arrives.
If you are in doubt as to whether or not you should take your pet ask yourself this question; “would I leave a young child here to cope?” If the answer is no, than take your pet.
What can you do for your pet if you cannot take it
with you? This is in the case of a hurricane or flood. In case of a fire or a tornado warning do not leave your pet.
If you are facing a hurricane, do not leave your pet outside. A bathroom, a closet or a room without too many windows is a good place to start. If you have a basement, keep your pet there.
Here is where a “self feeder” for dry food comes in handy. Fill it with as much dry food as it will hold. If you are leaving several pets get several feeders. If the self-feeders are not possible, leave dry food in containers the dogs or cats can get to. Leave plenty of water in containers that cannot be knocked over.
Leave several articles of clothing that you have recently worn with the pet, your scent will provide some comfort.
Expect a mess when you come home.
Put ID tags on the pet with all necessary information.
Leave your vet’s name and information along with a note giving permission for someone other than you to get treatment for the pet if necessary. Put this information in a plastic bag and nail it to a wall or door so it is visible.
If there is danger of a flood you need to provide places of higher elevation for the pet to get to.
In case of a flood, the cellar is definitely not the place to keep your pet. If you have an idea of the possible flood level, construct some type of area for the pet to climb onto to stay dry. Pile up furniture and create a level space that the pet can reach. Make certain there is food and water available for your pet to eat at floor level and on the higher space.
If you are leaving your dog outside, do not tie or chain it up. Dogs can be left in garages, barns, sheds or even a flat roof (provide a large board in case you are in a sunny area, as a roof can get very hot and burn a pet’s pads.)
Wherever you leave your dog, be certain that it can reach a higher level and that there is food and water there for your pet to eat and drink.
Do not leave treats, vitamins or supplements out for your pet, provide only dry food and water.
If your pet is a cat the same instructions apply. Make certain that the cat has a high place to retreat to in case of high water and that you have placed food and water in that location.
Refrigerators, tall entertainment centers or a shelf in a closet can provide safety for your cat. Regarding cats leave a litter box in the location you have chosen.
Making arrangements with a neighbor to keep an eye on your pet if you are not around when the disaster is due to happen is a good idea. Give your neighbor the necessary veterinarian information and a note allowing permission for treatment if you are not available.
Above all preplan and be ready.
If you are going on vacation be certain to check with the kennel or with the person who is caring for your animals to see if they have a disaster plan. This is where preplanning on your part is important. Have your disaster kit ready for them to use if necessary.
Leaving a pet is a heart-wrenching thing to do and please do not do it unless it is absolutely the only thing you can do. Just writing that sentence has reduced me to tears, as I know I could not leave my pets under any circumstances.
However, if it is necessary, please do your best to provide for the safety and well being of your pet.
Disasters do happen and you can be prepared.