Pets are members of the family, so it is important that our disaster planning considers their needs and ensures that we plan for their safety.
Most of the population has a pet of some sort. For those who do… their fluffy or not so fluffy companions are important members of the family. Bringing comfort to the lonely and laughter and love to all. They are loyal and loved family members. So, as a family when we prepare our disaster plan it is important to plan for our pet’s safety and needs as well.
in this article
1Advance planning tips
First and foremost disasters can occur anywhere at any time without prior warning; therefore it is of the upper most importance that you and your family discuss your pet’s needs and plan for an event. Every family member needs to know the plan. Remember, discussing and planning for a disaster doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to happen…but it is an essential precaution. And, will give you piece of mind knowing that everybody is familiar with the actions that are needed for pets accompanying you, and pets that are left unattended.
These are some basic steps that your pet should already have in place; if not these need to be addressed as soon as possible. Make them step one of your plan.
This really is the best idea to ensure you and your pet are reunited if separated. Easy and quick, your vet will fit the chip in seconds just under your pet’s skin, like having an injection. The chip contains all of your contact information and your pet’s name.
Most vets, animal shelters and law enforcement offices have the capabilities to read a microchip, meaning you and your pet can be reunited no matter how far or how long you are apart. Most importantly, this only works if your contact details are correct. So, if you take on a pet already chipped you must contact the chip company to provide the pets new details.
Most pets will be quite happy to wear a collar, if your pet is one of these make sure the collar and/or tag has your pets name, your name and your contact details. Two phone numbers are ideal, a home phone and a mobile or two mobile numbers. If there is space your address can be added for extra security. If on the other hand you have a pet that for whatever reason can’t or won’t wear a collar…don’t worry their microchip will ensure they are reunited with you.
If you have a pet that is happy on a leash get him or her used to other people taking the leash, so they are not overly scared if someone other than a family member has to take control during an emergency. If they won’t wear a leash, you can try and get them used to it but if they won’t they won’t.(I have a cat that if put on a leash can’t stand let alone walk but he will happily walk by my side, this does draw a few stares and comments about the odd looking dog)
Your pet’s vaccinations should always be kept up to date. Make a vaccination chart or mark when and what their last vaccinations were and when the next set are due. This should also be done for flea and worm treatment.
2 Creating a Disaster Preparedness Plan
The difficulty with most plans is, knowing how to get started. What emergencies are you planning for? Can you get help in preparing your plan? What actions are already in place in your locality?
Most local authorities are federally mandated to have an emergency preparedness plan in place, it’s a good idea to go along to your local office and ask if they have one. You can view the plan and take notes or use this plan as a template for your own. This ensures that you are considering all of the essential requirements as well as understanding the resources and priorities that will be initiated by the disaster response organizations in your locality.
Your plan should include the most likely emergencies that could occur in your locality and what actions you should have in place to respond to them. Some general considerations for the plan that covers each type of emergency are;
3Prepare Emergency Supply and Travelling Kits
As you consider your personal or family disaster preparedness kit, also consider the needs of your pet in your planning. Failure to prepare might have you identifying needs during an emergency that you are not equipped to address. Some items to include in a pet disaster kit include:
- Food and water supply for two weeks per pet. To be prepared for any emergency, ensure that the food is in either an airtight waterproof container or in cans to prevent bacteria or contamination.
- Bowls for food and water and, if food is canned, a manual can opener.
- Supplies to address pet waste. Plastic bags for dogs, cat litter for cats, etc.
- Cleaning supplies to address pet messes that may occur.
- Any medications for your pet, ensure you have a two week supply on hand. These should be stored in waterproof containers to maintain safety.
- It may be worthwhile to have a copy of your pet’s medical records, if possible, in case the need for emergency treatment by a veterinarian not familiar with your pet’s history is required during the disaster.
- Leashes, harnesses and carriers
- Comfort items and toys that are familiar to the pet and will reduce stress.
- You may wish to consider preparing a flyer in advance of a disaster situation and keep it in your kit in case you should get separated from your pet. It’s possible that otherwise, you may not have a photo, or access to equipment to develop a flyer urgently during a disaster situation.
- A reference sheet with pet care instructions in case you have to assign care of your pet to a boarding facility or another care provider. This would include feeding information, medical conditions or any pet preferences or behaviors to be aware of.
4Keeping Pets Safe During a Disaster
We are going to have a look at six typical disaster events and how you can keep your pet safe throughout. Pet carriers really are very important and you should try to ensure your pet is happy and comfortable to be in the carrier. Placing a blanket over the carrier when your pet is inside may offer some comfort and stress relief. (Your pet may not like the carrier, some pets aren’t bothered and some never get used to them. If this is your pet, don’t worry. Just try to make them comfortable and give lots of reassurance)
- Your pet carrier should be to hand in an easy accessible place at all times.
- Make sure someone is given the task of collecting the carrier; put it into your plan.
- Assign someone to round up your pet and put him or her safely into the carrier.
- If your pet is happy on a leash assign someone to collect the leash and the pet and put them in the car.
The general preparations, plan and kit will create a strong strategy for your pet’s safety. The nature of the emergency however will dictate somewhat the plans to be put into place before, during and after the emergency.
5Preparing an essential emergency pet supply and travel kit
It is essential to address the everyday needs of your pet when putting together a travel supply kit. Items such as food and water spring immediately to the mind but there are a lot of other essentials that can be packed in advance, as well as items that can be grabbed quickly when and if the time comes. (Don’t pack their favourite blanket or toy in advance, make sure you know where it is for ease if needed)
Have ready at least two weeks of food and water supply per pet. Dried food can be stored in large waterproof airtight containers, cans of food are great (don’t forget a can opener) sachets if you have a small pet are better for storage purposes. Water can be stored in large 5-10 litre containers, it is really important that you store all food and water in airtight waterproof containers to prevent bacterial growth and contamination.
- Plastic or metal bowls for food and water and a manual can opener.
- Supplies for your pet’s toiletry needs; Plastic bags, cat litter and a tray, old newspapers should cover most pet’s needs. Don’t forget the cleaning supplies to address any accidents that may occur. A roll of disposable cloth like J-cloths or kitchen roll as well as disinfectant wipes and a spray bottle of cleaner should cover all accidents big or small.
- If you pet is taking medication ensure you have two weeks supply on hand at all times. These can be stored in sealable sandwich bags or plastic containers if you have to evacuate.
- Keep an updated copy of your pet’s medical records in your kit; this is handy if your pet has to be treated by an unfamiliar vet during a disaster situation.
- A pet carrier for each pet as well as a leash and harness.
- Half a dozen pre prepared flyers with your pet’s photo and name as well as your contact information. If you are separated for any reason you may not have access to the equipment to put one together, you can never be over prepared.
- A reference sheet with your pets full care instructions written in; this should include feeding information, medical conditions and medication instructions as well as character traits, likes, dislikes and behaviours that others who may need to care for your pet should know about.
- Comfort items such as favourite toys and blankets that are familiar to your pet. These should help to ease the stress your pet may be under in a disaster situation; but, remember to pack them when the time comes, put it on your check list and assign someone to the job.
- Bedding. such as warm blankets, carpet and shredded newspapers depending on your pet’s type and preference.
After any emergency never let your pet in areas affected by flood waters, flood debris, fire damaged areas and earthquake zones. Only allow access when pre-disaster conditions are restored.
6Protecting yourself from injury and illness
The close proximity between humans and animals during and after a disaster poses a risk of illness to both. Our pets are susceptible to the contaminates surrounding them and we are susceptible to the transference of disease. We can reduce the risk of infection by taking some simple steps.
- Don’t allow your pet in disaster effected areas.
- Keep all pet bedding and utensils separate from your own and keep them clean.
- Wash your hands before and after touching your pet, pets food and bedding.
- Keep a ready supply of hand sanitiser; you don’t need water and it does the job.
- This is the tricky one…try to deter your pet from licking your hands and face and definitely no kissing. (That one is mainly for me)
Diseases pets can transmit to people during a natural disaster
Pet health is particularly at risk when exposed to unsanitary conditions such as stagnant or polluted water as well as overcrowded emergency accommodation and exposure to other wildlife. Humans are at risk of contamination as well as their pets.
Common diseases that can be transmitted to humans are;
Water borne diseases include Coccidiosis, giardia, babesiosis all are transmitted via contaminated or polluted water. The water may look crystal clear but lurking in its sparkling depths… Giardia; transmitted by beavers that have carried it to the birds and rodents who have drunk contaminated water and then pooped in other water…even a pet’s water dish that has been left outside can be affected. Even if the water looks fresh don’t be tempted and don’t give it to your pet.
Leptospirosis: Transmitted through contact with contaminated food, water soil and infected urine as above can cause kidney damage and may affect other organs as well. Pets can be vaccinated to decrease the likelihood of contracting this disease but the best strategy is to keep pets away from stagnant water supplies.
Rabies: transmitted through contact with saliva and bites from infected animals. Should you or your pet get bitten, contact disaster response and medics immediately for treatment.
Ringworm: Transmitted by direct contact with an animal’s skin or an object contaminated by the animal. A fungus infection that is treatable by applying an antibiotic cream to you both.
Given your geographic area, this may affect the types of disasters that may occur. If you are in an interior location, weather incidents such as hurricanes and tsunamis may not be a factor, but tornadoes and severe thunderstorms or blizzards could present a danger. Your planning should reflect the conditions that are most likely for your location.
If you live in a coastal area that could be susceptible to Tsunami’s or in an area susceptible to floods;
Keep all pet care items/ Kit and supplies at the highest level of your home that you are able to reach in an emergency.
As soon as you receive an evacuation imminent warning, this is usually broadcast to those affected by text message, radio and television.
- Collect your plan which should be kept in an accessible place within easy reach.
- Start putting the first stages of your plan into action, everybody should know what their task is, collect all family members together, call the neighbours included in the plan and carry out stage one of the assigned tasks.
- Ensure your pets are in the home in a place that is easy to collect them and put into carriers or leash and lead to car. And, that the carriers are ready to place them in.
- Have your pet kit ready and pack items not already included such as comforters. Take this time to fill water containers, collect medications and any food that you want to include and add them to your kit.
- Use your check list and tick off when each task is complete.
- When the evacuate immediately message is broadcast, carry out stage two by placing pets in carriers, loading the emergency kits into cars and heading to the highest ground identified to be safe.
Do involve your pet in all family evacuation drills so your pet becomes familiar with the exercise and will be less likely to panic or become over excited if the real event should occur. Follow your plan and allotted tasks.
However hard it may seem these rules should be followed.
- Only evacuate your pet if it is safe to do so.
- Never jeopardise your own ability to escape by delaying your evacuation to save a pet.
- Advise emergency responders of any pets left in the affected areas upon their arrival.
Place a couple of rescue alert sticker’s on your home in visible positions; these will alert emergency responders to the possible presence of a pet when engaged in search and rescue operations.
Take the appropriate action following your plan. Place your pet in its carrier if possible and cover it with a blanket, talk to your pet throughout to help reassure and keep them calm.
11 Extreme Temperatures
Ensure you have ample supplies of water on hand by filling any large clean sealable containers with fresh water. A good idea (if you have an esky) is to fill it with ice; the ice can be used to keep the pet cool by running a cube over its neck and paws and can also be used for drinking in an emergency.
- Keep your pet indoors as much as possible; restrict outdoor time to very early mornings and late evenings.
- Never leave your pet in an unattended vehicle at any time, especially during periods of extreme heat.
- If your pet doesn’t mind water try sponging them down with a cool wet towel.
Extreme cold is as dangerous as extreme heat to your pet and your pet should never be left in either extreme for prolonged periods of time.
- Ensure your pet has plenty of warm bedding and is fed regular meals; they may want a little more food in extreme cold conditions.
- cover your pet’s carrier in a warm blanket as well as putting extra bedding inside it.
- If your pet usually goes outside to the toilet make sure you have made ample provision for bathroom facilities for them inside, if this is not possible don’t let them stay out too long and always accompany your pet.
Always keep a mobile emergency response kit in your vehicle in the event that you are caught unawares. And, or weather conditions leave you stranded without access to other services including your home kit. This should contain.
- Bottled water.
- Canned and dried food.
- Manual can opener.
- Two bowls.
- Plastic bags, litter and a tray.
Different conditions pose different hazards; in a Tornado for example it is best to shelter with your pet at a low point away from windows, doors and exterior walls. If you are at home when a storm hits it is best to close all curtains and or blinds to minimise the stress to your pet.
13 Special Considerations
- It is recommended to leave large animals in place if safe to do so arranging for regular patrols of the area.
- If there is imminent danger arrange for alternative boarding ensuring the animal can be safely moved.
- If you have large animals make it a part of your plan and arrange beforehand transportation, boarding or alternative locations.
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.
- In cold weather, make certain you have a blanket over your pet’s cage. This may also help reduce the stress of traveling.
- In warm weather, carry a spray bottle to periodically moisten your bird’s feathers.
- Have recent photos available, and keep your bird’s leg bands on for identification.
- If the carrier does not have a perch, line it for paper towels that you can change frequently.
- Keep the carrier in as quiet an area as possible.
- It is particularly imperative that birds eat on a daily basis, so purchase a timed feeder. If you need to leave your bird unexpectedly, the feeder will ensure his daily feeding schedule.
- A snake may be transported in a pillowcase, but you should have permanent and secure housing for him when you reach a safe place.
- Take a sturdy bowl that is large for your pet to soak in. It’s also a good idea to bring along a heating pad or other warming devise, such as a hot water bottle.
- Lizards can be transported like birds
When possible, it is recommended to leave animals in place if safe to do so and arrange for regular patrols of the area. If there is imminent danger to the animal, arrange for alternate boarding. If they must be moved, take care to ensure that the animals can be safely removed, transported and that an alternate location has been secured before initiating any action to evacuate horses or large animals.