Natural Disasters: Planning for Pets
June may have been National Pet Preparedness Month, but determining a plan for how to best care for your pet in the case of a natural disaster should be done as quickly as possible no matter the season. After all, you never know when disaster will strike.
Your pet fully and completely relies on you for everything. They’d need you to especially take care of them during an emergency, whether it’s a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, tsunami, etc. It’s a terrifying time for the both of you, and it’s crucial that you plan ahead of time how and where you will be bringing your pet to safety.
While you may be tempted to purchase everything that’s ever been created for a pet, your emergency plans should consist of the essentials.
- At Home
If you and your pet will be staying home during the time of the disaster, it’s important that you first are aware of your companion’s tendencies when they are nervous, scared, or anxious. Chances are that they will resort to some sort of panicked behavior, which can include whimpering, barking, aggression, and most usually - hiding. Be sure that you are able to locate them as quickly as possible to make sure they remain indoors and in your vision. It’s even better if you can decide on a designated place that is accessible for you and your pet to stay during the disaster, as it’s easier to stay accountable and move quickly when you’re all together already. Keeping them in a carrier while waiting for the calamity to pass is even better, as it will prevent them from hiding or running outdoors. Plus makes it easier for you to grab them and go if an evacuation is called for. When your pet needs to be fed, go for canned and wet foods. These come with a lot of water content in comparison to dry foods, which will lessen your companion’s need to use the bathroom or drink too much.
- An Evacuation
If an evacuation is necessary, your pet must evacuate with you. If a household isn’t safe enough for people to stay in during a disaster, it definitely isn’t for an animal either. Unfortunately, most shelters that people evacuate to don’t accept animals for safety, space, and hygienic purposes. In some cases service dogs will be allowed. So to be safe, you must familiarize yourself with local places that will gladly house your pet. Be prepared with options of nearby pet-friendly hotels, motels, and boarding facilities that can care for your pet. You can also keep handy a list of trusted friends or relatives that will be able to accommodate your pet if you are unable to.
Practice evacuation drills with your pet so that they are already used to the feeling of being in a crate or carrier for a longer period of time. Load them into the crate with time to spare and leave as early as possible so that you have more time to adhere to the plan or make changes if necessary. Your pet is also less likely to get caught up in an even bigger, more chaotic crowd if you move quicker and earlier than the rest.
Before leaving, put some form of identification on your pet - a collar with an ID tag stating their full name and contact information so that they can be returned to you if lost or separated. You might even want to consider microchipping. Lastly, make sure your pet has their documents on hand. Your veterinarian can help provide you with these, such as proof of ownership, vaccinations, prescriptions, and any past test results.
Whether or not you will be evacuating, always have an emergency kit ready to go. The following supplies are very useful to have inside:
- Week’s worth of food and water
- Can opener (for wet food)
- Portable bowls and dishes
- Leash, harness, and muzzle
- Poop bags
- Wee-wee pads
- Litter supplies
- Flea & tick preventatives
- Anti-anxiety / calming products
- Toys and treats
After the Disaster
Once the phenomena has safely passed, check to see if your pet is in a healthy physical condition. Continue to supervise them and keep them away from any dangerous remnants of the disaster, such as debris, spillages, flooding, fallen power lines, etc. Keep them on a leash so that you can stay in close contact with them and be able to protect them from any other foreign substances or animals brought in by the storm and circumstances. Also expect that your pet may act differently compared to their usual demeanor. They may display signs of fear, aggression, or defensiveness. The most you can do is reassure them that they are safe by placing them in a safe, familiar environment and providing them with extra love and attention. If needed, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to help them recover.