Pooches Need Preparedness Too

I consider my dog to be a member of the family, and I admit he is a little spoiled. He’s allowed on furniture and eats prescription food for his sensitive stomach. He is used to the luxuries of everyday life.

With hurricane season under way, FEMA recently released a guide highlighting the importance of emergency preparedness. If you and your family are caught in the midst of a disaster, stop for a moment and think of the needs of your furry friends. Should they be denied the comforts they are accustomed to because of a mere emergency? Just like humans, pets should have a disaster preparedness kit of their own, the agency says.

“Family pets are often overlooked in disaster planning,” said Stephanie Gittinger of AmeriCorps: VISTA and KYEM shelter coordinator. “However, recent disasters have taught us this is an important and much needed component of disaster planning.”

In fact, federal officials passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, which displaced an estimated 200,000 pets from their families. The PETS Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for people with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency. I find it reassuring that if my dog and I were to be separated, adequate shelter and food would be available to him (even though I know he’d prefer his own blanket).

FEMA says the single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you in the event of an evacuation. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed (“Homeward Bound”-type scenarios notwithstanding).

Pack a Pet Survival Kit
The recommended emergency kit FEMA says you should create for your pet should include at least three days of food, water, and medications.

  • First aid kit. Most pet kits have cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, rubbing alcohol, and saline solution. A pet first aid book may also be helpful. (See CPR’s Not Just for Humans Anymore to learn about pet CPR.)
  • Identification, harness or leash. Your dog or cat should wear a collar with an ID and rabies tags at all times. Keep a backup set in your pet's emergency kit. Include important documents like registration, adoption, vaccination, or important medical records. Consider micro chipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. A picture will help identify your pet and document ownership should you become separated.
  • Crate or carrier. Have a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier to transport your pet.
  • Familiar items. Include your pet's favorite toys, treats or bedding. Stock up on Milk Bones.
  • Sanitation. Have supplies to provide for your pet's sanitation needs such as litter and litter box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach for disinfecting (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach).
  • Entertainment. Consider including your pet’s favorite movie or bedtime story.

There are even kits available for the most high-maintenance pet. The Fussy Cat Kit offers everything and more for the pickiest of cats, including a bed, litter box, and hand wipes. The Deluxe Dog Survival Kit from Quake Kare, a supplier of emergency preparedness kits, includes water purification tablets, an emergency pet alert sticker, special collapsible bowls, and chew toys that provide “normal entertainment during a great time of stress.”

Prepare a Plan
For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out before an emergency happens which facilities in your area are viable options for you and your pets.

  • Consider family or friends willing to take in you and your pets. Research which area motels and hotels allow pets. Boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinary hospitals also may be an option. Contact your local humane society chapter to locate nearby shelters and support organizations.
  • Plan to take your pets with you if at all possible. If you have no alternative and must leave your pet at home, take precautions. NEVER leave your pet chained outside. Confine them to a safe area inside your home with food and plenty of water. Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink (this is the one time it is acceptable for your pet to drink out of the toilet). Place notices outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your vet.

I’d like to think that in the event of an emergency or separation, my dog would be like Shadow, Chance, and Sassy from “Homeward Bound” who, somehow without benefit of a first aid kit, managed to journey across the country through rain and snow to reunite with me. But I’ll play it safe and plan ahead. No pooch should be left behind.

Posted by Laura Swift on Jul 07, 2010

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