Disaster and Our Pets!

It is a beautiful day here in sunny Florida and Gram and I are talking about the coming hurricane season, we both feel that it is time to pass on this information.

The first of June is approaching quite rapidly and for those of us affected by the Atlantic Hurricane season, it is time to give some thought to preparations for the coming months for ourselves and our pets.

Not only are there hurricanes to worry some of us, others live in fear of wildfires that seem to burn somewhere every month of the year and then there are tornadoes and flash flooding to worry about, too.

Hurricane Katrina caused many families to loose their pets, some had to leave them because shelters would not allow pets and others thought that they would be gone only for a day or two. No one expected the end result and the extent of the damage.

With that thought in mind, it is time now to plan and including your pet should be part of the master plan for your household.

According to Joan Willoughby, deputy director of disaster services for the Humane Society of the United States, you should have a family meeting with every one present and discuss a basic emergency plan for the whole family including the pets.

The plan should aim for one week of self-reliance. This means that you have sufficient foodstuffs, clothes, personal articles and supplies for your pets to last at least one week. This helps to take some of the panic out of the situation and gives you time to plan the next steps.

In the event of a hurricane, do not expect emergency shelters to take your pets and sometimes because of overcrowding they cannot even take you.

Granted since Katrina, there have been arrangements in some areas to provide room for pets. But, do not depend on that, as it is a first come first served basis,

Here are some basic ideas that could help in the case of an emergency situation:

  • Decide on an out-of-state person to be your family’s contact person. In case your family members are separated it helps to have one person act as a central communication center. It is usually easier to call out of state during a disaster than locally.
  • Decide who is going to be responsible for the dog and/or cat and other pets.
  • Who is in charge of getting the cars gassed up and ready to roll
  • Make arrangements of where in the house you will quarter the pets while you are getting ready to evacuate. If you do not keep the pets in a safe and closed location, they are apt to pick up on the nervousness of the household and disappear.
  • Write this all down and make certain each family member has a copy. I know this may sound very silly at a time when a disaster is not eminent, but once panic begins to set in, confusion will reign.
  • A well stocked first-aid kit something you should have ready not only for yourself, but for your pet also.

    Just think of how important lists are when you are grocery shopping and when something is not on the list, it totally slips your mind, even though you thought of it earlier.

    Think of your evacuation plan as a pre-arranged camping trip. Advance planning is worth is weight in gold.

    For your dog or other pets have a box already prepared that you will rotate every two months or so, to keep the food and water fresh.

  • Plan on enough dry food for at least 7 days, kept in an airtight container, or enough canned food with easy open tabs.
  • Either bottled water or containers filled with the usual water your pet drinks, again rotate every two months.
  • Medical prescriptions if your pet is taking any medication.
  • Veterinary records and write down contact information should you need t contact the vet for any reason.
  • Have a crate or carrier for your pet to sleep and/or travel in.
  • Make certain you have ID on your dog with your cell phone number on it and the number of your out-of-state contact person.
  • Take an extra collar, leash and a harness, just as an added safety precaution.
  • Food and water dishes
  • Pictures of your pet(s) just in case they should run away or get loose for some reason. Pictures will help you identify them and prove your ownership.
  • Take your pet’s favorite blanket, toys and pillow if they have one.

    You can store all these things in a suitcase and/or the crate/carrier if you do not use it often.

    If you feel that you cannot take your pet with you. Start now to find “out of the area kennels and/or veterinary clinics” that board pets, call a friend or relative that lives outside your area and see if they will pet sit your dog or cat if it becomes necessary.

    The ideal situation is to take your pet with you, but if for some reason you cannot do this, please make certain that you do all that you can to keep your pet safe, and fed. Keep your pet in a safe room, bathroom or utility room, a place with as few windows as possible and one that will be easy to clean.

    Give your pet at least a 3 day supply of dry food. Wet food will go rancid and your pet will not be able to eat it. Put plenty of water in a container that your pet cannot turnover.

    Do not leave a dog and a cat together, no matter how wonderfully they get along under normal circumstances. If one gets really scared there is no way to tell what can happen.

    Leave your pet at home only as a last resort. Please put notes on your windows that there is a pet inside, so it can be rescued if necessary. Make certain that someone can easily see there is a pet alone in the house.

    Be certain to have identification on your pet with your cell phone number and your out-of-area number on it. Alert neighbors that you are leaving your pet.

    Gram and I hope this will give you some idea of how to prepare as the hurricane season closes in on us.

    The best advice we can give is take your pet with you, as the safest place it has, is with you and your family.

    Until next time, I remain

    Your Sadie

    Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.