Day 28 – National Preparedness Month Challenge – Pets and Disasters
Most people with pets consider their small charges family and would do anything to keep them safe. A preparedness plan for your pet is very similar to one for your children – you pack the things that are needed to keep them safe, fed, and entertained. Have you made a plan to evacuate your pets during a disaster or to shelter them in place?
My friend Melissa has taken the care of her animal to heart and created a kit for her cat Travis. She is prepared to travel safely with him for extended periods of time and has recently put this to the test, traveling for a month.
Melissa reports that her pet disaster kit is working well and there are several things she has learned:
- She needs a better way to dispose of the waste and found that she had not packed enough scoopable litter.
- Travis is on a special diet with food purchased from the vet. While Melissa had enough food for this trip, if they really were in a disaster, that might become a problem if they need to leave the area and cannot get his food.
- Fresh water could also be a problem since it is heavy and hard to store. She is considering a separate way to purify water for her pet kit.
- A harness and leash (for her cat) have been indispensable and she is glad she “practiced” with him for several weeks before they left. In a real emergency this could be a problem if your cat is not used to being on a leash.
- Animals pick up on our signals – good or bad. Traveling has been somewhat stressful for Travis, and Melissa has learned that keeping herself “together” during an emergency will also reduce the panic and anxiety her animal might face.
- She discovered a product call “At Ease”, an herbal spray used in bedding to help calm animals. This has been very helpful during their travels and she will make this a permanent part of her pet disaster kit in the future.
It may be sacrilegious to say this, but we don’t have any pets at our house right now – so I’m going to let the experts tell us the best way to prepare our pets for a disaster.
All agree that just as you would create a kit for your children, you should also create a 72 hour kit for your pets.
Ready.gov recommends the following items in this downloadable flier – Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies Makes Sense:
- Food. Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
- Water. Store at least three days of water specifically for your pets in addition to water you need for yourself and your family.
- Medicines and medical records. Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
- First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Include a pet first aid reference book.
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash. Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag in your pet’s emergency supply kit. In addition, place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container and also add them to your kit. You should also consider talking with your veterinarian about permanent identification such as microchipping, and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
- Crate or other pet carrier. If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation take your pets and animals with you provided that it is practical to do so. In many cases, your ability to do so will be aided by having a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier ready for transporting your pet. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
- Sanitation. Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color safe bleaches, or those with added cleaners.
- A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items. Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.
Just like Melissa found out the hard way, pets may get very stressed when traveling far from home as most of them thrive on routine and predictability, such as familiar people, environments, smells and noises.
Find out what can calm your pet down BEFORE disaster strikes, and keep those tools and techniques close to you in case of emergency. Also, get your pet accustomed to new environments by taking practice trips by foot and by car.
ASPCA.org has a pets and disasters page with a free emergency pet alert sticker for your home. “This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. You can order their free Pet safety Pack here.
Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian’s phone number. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers”. In addition to dogs and cats, they also have information about reptiles and other small animals like hamsters and gerbils.
The HumaneSociety.org has a page devoted to pets and disasters.
Planning for a disaster may seem overwhelming, but The HSUS’s disaster guide will make it easy. We’ll tell you what you can do right now, when disaster strikes, and even after to make sure that you and your pets come through just fine. The first step is to make your disaster plan.”
Large animals and livestock need extra consideration in disaster planning. Disaster preparedness is important for all animals, but it is especially important for livestock because of the size of the animals and their shelter and transportation needs.
Today’s Challenge: Pets and Disasters Preparedness
GOOD: Read up on the things to add to a 72 hour kit for your pets. Make a plan for each animal- horses to gerbils!
BETTER: Get together 5 things you will need for each animal
BEST: Contact your veterinarian about microchipping and other issues they may have about “your” pet and disasters.
Bear in mind that if your pet is a rescue or was bought from a certified breeder, it might already have a microchip. What’s more, not all pets with a microchip are retrieved and there are some health concerns about microchipping pets, including cancer risk.
Pet microchippig is a growing industry so the messages are oftentimes purposely mixed.
So, do your own research before consulting with a vet on the topic and do not shy away from asking the hard questions, such as
- What are the rates of retrieval of lost microchipped pets?
- What is the risk of migration of the chip in the pet’s body?
- How many (if any) pets developed an inflamatory reaction to the microchip and for how long?
and so on…
If the answers are sketchy or non-existent, you might want to try other forms of pet identification, such as non-invasive GPS tracking devices or the good old ID tag with your home/ hotel address and/or telephone number on it.
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