Increase your pet’s odds of surviving a disaster by being prepared

By Gina McBride

As the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina unfolded on our television screens last year, it was heartbreaking to look at the pets that had to be left behind, often wrenched from the arms of their owners during the race to rescue so many. Often rescue operations weren’t equipped to handle animals and most emergency shelters refused to take pets due to overcrowding, safety concerns and very likely inflexibility of regulations, even during this extraordinary disaster. So most beloved pets were left to struggle….and die.

We need only to recall the 2003 Cedar Fire or other large-scale fires that have swept through San Diego County communities over the years to know that the vast power of Mother Nature is unpredictable and can never be underestimated. Our only defense is to be just as prepared as we possibly can, both as a community and as a family unit.

There is at least one pet in over 60% of U.S. households and since most of us consider pets as family members, they need to be included when you start preparing your family for emergencies.

First of all your pet should have a collar with a tag containing pertinent contact information, including your cell phone number and e-mail address (more likely to be accessible in event of disaster) and a phone number of a contact who lives far away. Your pet should be “micro-chipped” for identification, which can be done at your vet’s office or at various local animal shelters. These precautions will make it more likely you and your pet will be reunited if separated during an emergency, or even if your pet is simply lost.

Second, just as you need to have an emergency preparedness kit for your family, you should also prepare a kit just for your pet, a brightly-colored pack with supplies to last for a few days. You’ll want to include water, and perhaps water-purifying tablets, pet food and treats, bowls, a manual can opener and a leash or small carrier. Also pack a supply of your pet’s medications (you might need to rotate these for freshness) and a pet first aid kit with instructions and a contact list for shelters, clinics and veterinarians.

In your pet’s disaster kit, you should have copies of your pet’s medical records, listing vaccine dates and prescribed medications. Also include extra photos of your pet and multiple copies of a pet identification form that has contact information and a complete description of your pet. These can be posted at shelters or central locations if you and your pet are separated. Then be sure to store your pet’s emergency pack in a very accessible location.

Third, taking basic first aid classes designed for your family and pets will provide skills you might need. If a disaster should strike, try to calmly assess the situation and quickly follow your plan to unite your family and pet and if needed, move to a safe place. Being properly prepared for emergencies will increase your odds for a good outcome.

Download “Disaster Preparedness Guide for Pet Owners”. This comprehensive guide is published by National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and provided courtesy of Animal House Pet Care, a member of NAPPS. The publication includes the Pet Identification Form to complete for your pet’s disaster kit.

House Bill Passes Requiring Pet Evacuation Plans

A scene on television during the Hurricane Katrina evacuations of a young boy having to leave his dog behind was a defining moment during that tragic time and has captured the hearts of the U.S. Congress. The House voted on May 22 to require that pets be included in any emergency preparedness plans being developed by state and local agencies or risk losing future funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

U.S. Reps. Christopher Shays, R-CN and Tom Lantos, D-CA are co-sponsors of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act. They estimate that up to 600,000 animals died or were left to find shelter during the Katrina disaster. Pet owners were also put in danger as many refused to be rescued if their pets had to be left behind.

A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate giving FEMA authority to make grants to agencies for emergency preparedness projects for animals.

We will keep you posted on this developing story…..

Gina McBride is co-owner of Animal House Pet Care in Carlsbad and Publisher/Editor of “Pet Tails” newsletter.