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You are ultimately responsible for the survival and well-being of your pet. You should have an emergency response plan and readily accessible kits with provisions for family members and pets.
To prevent losing your pet in a disaster
With unfamiliar sounds, smells and sights that follow a disaster, pets can easily become confused and get lost.Dogs and cats should wear appropriate identification at all times. Examples of appropriate identification include: tags with your name, address and phone number. You should also include the phone number of a friend or relative from out-of-state.
More permanent methods include microchips, freeze marking and tattoos.
Examples of appropriate identification for birds include: leg bands, microchips or tattoos. These are most useful if the information on them is included in a national registry.Current photographs of your pet will help with identification after a disaster. You should also send photos of your pet to your out-of-state friend or relative. Know your cat and dog’s common and favorite hiding places. Once the chaos starts, this is where you will find them. Make a list of the places where you can get veterinary care, food, shelter and housing for your pets in an emergency. Find out what they provide and what they would need from you.
Make a commitment to gather this information now. Special facilities may be required for birds or exotic animals.
Develop an emergency plan and practice it
How can you get started with emergency preparedness? The following recommendations will help reduce the impact of a disaster.Start by imagining the types of disasters that you might encounter. This is the first step toward developing an effective disaster plan. Develop a general family disaster plan. The American Red Cross provides excellent courses for this and has brochures that will help you and your children in developing and exercising your plan. Add specific plans for your pet. Practice evacuation of your family and pets until you can evacuate within a few minutes. Everybody in the family should participate, including your pets. Decide on a place where your family will meet if you get separated. Decide who will take care of your pet and where he or she will stay during a crisis. Determine the best room in the house to leave your pet in if you must evacuate without your pet. This will vary with the type of pet you own and the type of disaster. Make arrangements for pet care with neighbors, family and friends. Make sure they have keys to your house and leave information on where you will be, how you can be reached, which room the animals are in, and how to care for your pets. Think of who you would phone outside of your area. Often people cannot phone into a disaster zone, but it is possible to phone out. An out-of-state contact can help relay information and keep your family connected. Keep a supply of quarters to use for pay phones as they will most likely be the first public communication to resume. The best emergency plans involve many people and systems that can back each other up. Here are some people and groups you need to get involved:
Accustom your pets to sudden actions as would be needed in a disaster
Actions taken in preparation for a disaster include the following:
Prepare a disaster kit for each pet
You should have a disaster kit for each pet. Do not store kits in the kitchen or the garage. These are frequently the areas where fires start.
Kits and their contents should be easily retrieved and kept in rodent-and ant-proof containers. Check the contents of the disaster kits twice a year when the clocks change for daylight savings. Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every two months. Here are some items that are recommended for your disaster kit:
Your pet’s healthTo minimize ill health effects of a disaster, make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current. Most vaccinations are repeated yearly. Rabies is repeated every three years in most species, but may be required yearly (depending on the type of vaccine and State requirements).
Keep copies of your pet’s current vaccinations, health and ownership records in your disaster kit.If your pet requires regular medications, keep a current copy of your pet’s prescription or extra supplies in your disaster preparedness kit.
Special recommendations for birds
The care of birds in disasters requires special consideration. Following are some recommendations.
ResponseSeveral actions will help ensure a safe response to a disaster. Several of these are listed below.
In some situations, circumstances may force you to leave your pet behind.Leaving your pet behind is only a last resort. If you must leave without your pet, you should leave them in your home. Under these conditions, the following advice should be helpful:
Special recommendations for birds
The following actions are specially recommended for birds.
If electricity is available, many birds benefit from having a heating pad under their cage in times of stress. Blankets placed over the cage can also minimize stress.
RecoveryWhen the disaster has passed, it is not uncommon to find that once familiar surroundings have been rearranged. Pets that rely on visual and olfactory (scent) cues may become disoriented. Here are some guidelines that may help you through the recovery period.
Avoid unfamiliar activities with your pet, such as bathing, excessive exercise, or diet supplements. Try to avoid diet changes.
If you and your pet are separated, pay daily visits to local shelters, animal control facilities, veterinary offices and kennels until you have found it. A phone call is often not as effective as a visit. You can also post photos of your lost pet.
If your pet has tattoos, a microchip or other permanent identification, this will increase the chances of finding it. Be aware that collars and tags are sometimes lost.
If you find a stray animal, take it to a shelter or other facility set up for lost and found animals. Place an advertisement in the local newspaper to inform the owner where the pet was taken. Often newspapers run found ads for free.
Share your experiences with friends and family. Talking about your experiences will help you deal with them and offers great stress relief. Consider seeking professional counseling, as recovery is aided when guided by professionals experienced in dealing with disasters.
CHECKLIST FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR PETS
Do you have the following items ready?
oYour written family disaster plan
oDisaster preparedness kit
oCrate and bedding
oFood, water, manual can opener, and dishes
oPlastic bags, paper towels, newspaper (when shredded, can be used as cat litter), disinfectant
oCollar, leash, harnesses
oMuzzles, gauze rolls
oCurrent medical and vaccination records
oExtra bottles of daily medications or copies of prescriptions with current expiration date
oPet comfort items: towels, blankets, toys
oA list of hotels, motels and boarding kennels that accept pets
oDetailed instructions for animal care and rescue workers
oFirst aid kit
oCopies of health certificates
oOut-of-state telephone contact
oFlat tire repair kit
Now that you know how to take care of your pet during severe weather, why not try your hand at the simple quiz below about pets and severe weather.