When it comes to survival during an emergency, I have always considered my pets as family and give them the same level of concern and planning as I would any family member. As recent times in our history have shown us, to have an emergency plan in place for ourselves and our family is a wise undertaking. When a crisis happens there is usually little time to thoughtfully respond, instead it is likely you will be in “reaction mode”. Therefore, having a well thought out emergency plan is best for the whole family, including your pet family. In developing a Pet Emergency Plan there are several things you might want to consider:
1. What should you do at the first signs of bad weather? If your pet is outside, bring him in. Pets can easily become frightened, confused, and disoriented during a storm. Being in such an anxious state they may run off and become lost. Once your pet is inside, place them in a room that offers the most protection, completely free of hazards such as windows or potentially flying debris. I place all of my pets in the interior bathroom and we wait the storm out together. If you are in a situation where flooding is threatening, go to the highest location in your home.
2. Where will you go? If the emergency requires you to evacuate your home, it is suggested that you plan ahead of time where you would go with your pets. I have made a personal decision that I will not be separated from my pets during a crisis. Since not all evacuation centers will accept pets, I have contacted family and friends who do not live in my immediate area and have made arrangements to bunk with them, at least for a few days. As a back-up plan, I also have camping equipment ready to go. If necessary we’ll be able to stay at a KOA, national or state park since pets are always welcome there. But if none of these options are plausible for you, it is suggested that you identified hotels outside of your local area that accept pets. It is easy to identify these types hotels on-line followed with a call to the hotel to confirm your findings.
3. What pet supplies should you take? A well-developed list of “must have” pet items is a terrific idea. There items should be prepacked inside of a waterproof plastic tote and labeled as “Pet Emergency Kit”. My pet emergency kit has enough food and water for my pets for 7 days, and if any of them take mediation, I have a two-week supply packed in the kit. A few other suggested items to include are leashes, collars, ID tags, basic first aid, sanitation items, toys, treats and pet bowls.
4. What is the best means of transporting your pet? It is suggested that sturdy dog crates and kennels be chosen for transportation needs. A plastic dog crate is the best solution if you are looking for durability and maximum safety. Plastic crates are also stack-able in the vehicle allowing you to optimize space. A portable dog crate is the best way to ensure your pets will be transported safely and securely, and unable to escape from the vehicle. Pets are very sensitive to any tension or concern from family members and this will cause them to become nervous or anxious. If pets are not confined to a carrier there is a risk that in their nervous state, they would run from the car. Place familiar items in the crates, such as a favorite blanket or toy, to help to reduce the stress level of your pet. Having your pet confined to a carrier during transport reduces your worry as well as helps to relieve stress on your pet.
5. What if you become separated from your pet? I understand that none of us want to even consider being separated from our pets. But if, in all the confusion, you somehow become separated from your pet, it is strongly recommended that all of your pets be wearing collars with ID tags. If separated, the ID tag will play a critical role in reuniting the two of you. Microchips are another option, however, when your pet is found, it would require someone to take your pet to a facility that can scan the chip and search that data base. Using both an ID tag and a microchip will only help to increase the odds of being reunited. Current photographs of your pets would also be helpful in distributing “lost” posters.
The nature of an emergency usually means you are going to be faced with a difficult and stressful situation. Developing a solid, well thought out plan ahead of time is the best means of coping with, and protecting your family and pets against, a potential crisis. We all hope to never be faced with such a circumstance, but planning will help to keep you and your pet happy and safe.