What is Your Disaster Plan for Your Pets?

By: PaKou Lee, Red Cross PR/Social Media Volunteer

I live with two very sassy, but loving Chihuahuas, Junie and Julie, both belonging to my niece, Nevaeh. I always thought that when a disaster strikes whether it is a tornado or a fire, everyone would gather, grab the dogs and find a safe place to be. As I researched for Preparedness Month, I realized there is much more to planning a pet disaster safety than just grabbing and keeping them safe.

It is not that I think Junie and Julie are less important; they are part of the family too. Many people including myself are just not sure where to start for pet emergencies. I have gathered some important safety tips so we can all be prepared- learn how to prepare for a pet emergency, know what should be included in the portable kit, and how to help your pets recover after a traumatic event.

Prepare:

  • Know which hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept you and your pets in an emergency. Ask if no pet policies could be waived in an emergency.
  • Most American Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters.
  • Include your pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers calmly.
  • Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.

Your Kit Should Include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, litter pans, pet beds and toys.
  • Medications, copies of medical records, your veterinarian’s name and number stored in a waterproof container.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavior problems.

Pet Recovery:

  • Watch your animals closely and keep them under your direct control as fences and gates may have been damaged.
  • Pets may become disoriented, particularly if the disaster has affected scent markers that normally allow them to find their home.
  • Be aware of hazards at nose and paw or hoof level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that might not seem to be dangerous to humans.
  • Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

    Our Chihuahuas, Julie (top) and Junie (bottom). Aren't they cute?

    Our Chihuahuas, Julie (top) and Junie (bottom).
    Aren’t they cute?

Red Cross also offers Pet First Aid class. You will learn how to administer medication to managing cardiac emergencies and more! If you have animals such as livestock, reptiles, birds, and other small animals, visit Humane Society of the United States or Ready.gov for more information on how to keep your animals safe.

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