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Disaster Prep for Your Animals

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Disaster Prep for Your Animals

How to keep your animals safe during a natural disaster

In times of disaster emergencies we need to pay special attention to the welfare of our companion animals who depend on us for their survival. Developing an emergency plan in advance will help ensure their health and safety and will give us peace of mind.

What are we dealing with?

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, ice storms can occur, and humans can cause such disasters as oil spills and chemical fires. Evacuation may result from these emergencies and can last days and weeks. Where will your animals be?

Other emergencies to you personally, such as sudden illness or hospitalization as a result of a vehicle or workplace accident, may leave your animal alone and forgotten at home.

Everybody needs somebody sometime

Develop a support network of friends, relatives, and neighbors. Especially if you live alone, ensure that someone is regularly looking in on you to ensure you are okay, and subsequently your animal is fine. Leave a house or apartment key with someone you trust – and with whom your animal also has a trusting relationship – and make sure that person knows the animal’s feeding routine and other daily activities. Post a sticker on your door indicating that there are animals living on the premises. Keep an emergency card in your wallet identifying animals in your home who will need taking care of if you are incapacitated.

Getting the papers in order

Make sure you have on hand all the papers pertinent to your animal – ownership papers and vaccination and medical records. Also have a photograph of your animal, especially showing distinguishing marks; even better, include yourself in the photo to prove that the animal does belong to you.

If a reliable person has agreed to care for your animal during an emergency, have a permission slip put in your file at the vet’s, authorizing this person to get medical care for your animal.

Making accommodation arrangements

Make inquiries in your community to find out where you could go in case of evacuation. Talk to friends and relatives and find out if you and your animal companion would be welcome to stay with them. Check out animal boarding facilities and animal shelters as you would not be allowed to take your animal to a Red Cross shelter. Some hotels and motels will waive their no-pet policy during disasters.

Putting together the emergency/evacuation kit

As well as a first aid kit and book, your emergency kit should include a two week’s supply of food, water, and medications (as well as litter if you have a cat). Replenish them regularly to ensure quality and freshness and store in an accessible area where there are no temperature extremes. Remember that water unfit for humans is also unfit for your animal. Buy canned food in amounts small enough to be eaten at one meal; leftover food can become contaminated if no refrigeration is available. Include a can opener, a spoon, and an additional feeding dish. Store food in airtight, waterproof containers. Keep important papers relevant to your animal, along with his history and his needs.

What your animal will need

In case you have to transport your animal, obtain a carrier or kennel. The cat will need a small litter box. Have a harness and leash for both a dog and a cat. Keep extra ones in your vehicle and in the emergency kit. Make sure your animal has some form of identification – microchip, tag, tattoo – and have a tag ready that includes the phone number and address of your temporary home.

Don’t leave home without him

If at all possible, take your animal with you if there is an evacuation. Never assume you’ll be home soon; it may be days or weeks before you are allowed home again. Wherever you may end up staying, you may have to confine your animal to the kennel. Bring along familiar toys and special treats and take the animal out for exercise. A cat should be on a leash and should never be left alone. Try to keep the animal on as normal a routine as possible; for example, feed him at the usual time.

If you can’t take him with you

Leave the animal in a secure area inside your home. Leave out at least 10 days’ supply of water and dry food. Try to get a neighbor to check in on him. Provide rescue personnel with information on your animal and the location of the emergency supplies.

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