By Whitney Daniela, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
Our furry friends are members of the family. Pets bring us joy and companionship and we do everything we can to enrich their lives. In return, they display unconditional love and devotion. But sadly, our furry friends are often forgotten in disaster planning. Your pet is solely dependent on you to make good decisions in disaster preparedness. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your pets are protected.
Pet First Aid Kit
Like people, animals can suffer from injuries during a disaster. If wounded your pet may need immediate aid before they are able to reach the care of a vet. Some medical products may be easy to get at your local pharmacy or pet store. However, before putting your emergency kit together it is important to speak to your pet’s vet about what you should include in the kit based on species and breed. Also, include all prescription medications that your pet is using. Having drinking water and food is important, as these things are difficult to find for a pet during a disaster. Always stay up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Have A Pet Escape Plan
Creating a detailed plan on how to escape a house fire, flood or natural disaster can be vital to your pet’s safety. Animals feel fear, panic and anxiety in highly stressful situations and having an owner who understands this and plans ahead can save their lives. Keep crates, kennels or cages that are able to be easily transported and make sure leashes and harnesses are readily available. Keeping your pet secure during an emergency is critical to everyone’s safety.
Make sure cats and dogs are wearing collars. By doing this you ensure that if they are lost or separated, your contact information is with your pet. Include your name and phone number (more than one if possible) at a minimum. If space allows, consider adding your vet’s address or phone number. Many veterinarians keep tags available with the clinic’s full contact information.
In addition to a collar, having your pet microchipped is important. Many veterinarian offices and animal shelters offer this service at a minimal cost. Also, keep the information on the chip updated.
Research a list of pet-friendly hotels and animal hotels/boarding kennels that your pet may be able to stay in until it becomes safe for them to return home. It is important to note that the only service animals are allowed to stay in American Red Cross shelters for a variety of reasons. However, the Red Cross will do everything it can to work with partner agencies to ensure pets’ safety and comfort in disaster.
Training you pet on how to respond can be very helpful. When the rest of the members of the family are practicing their escape routine include your pet if possible. Speak to a trainer on how you can get them to respond promptly to keywords or phrases.
Keep a list of contact numbers that includes your primary veterinarian, at least three area 24-hour emergency animal clinics and family and friends who can pet sit if needed. Write the list and keep it with your emergency kit … and don’t forget to have a digital copy saved on a mobile device or in your email!
Stay Up to Date
It is critical for you to stay updated on weather warnings and advance notices given for disasters. Do not hesitate to start preparing for your family and your pets. Disasters escalate rapidly and it takes time and logistics to secure your pet and get them to a safe place. For more information on preparedness, click here.
After the Disaster
The aftermath of a disaster is tough for everyone, including animals. Your pet may experience shock, depression and difficulty adjusting back to normal life. A vet or trainer can recommend exercises and treatments to help reduce the stress your pet may feel. Additionally, as an owner, there are simple things you can do to relieve their anxiety.
- Ensure the environment is safe before bringing your pet home.
- Start back on regular routines. Go back to the schedule you had before the disaster.
- Put food bowls and beds back in place.
- Go for walks, play and exercise.
- Provide treats or toys.
Pay attention to moods, eating habits and behavior. If you feel your pet is not responding well or adjusting properly contact the vet immediately.
And of course don’t forget to download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app for more information!