Caring for Pets During Emergencies

dog wearing sunglassesThe best way to protect your pets from the effects of a disaster is to have a plan. Different disasters require different responses, but whether the disaster is a hurricane or a hazardous spill, you and your pets may have to evacuate your home. Leaving a pet behind during a disaster, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worst. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.

Red Cross disaster shelters do not always accept pets due to health and safety regulations and other considerations (exceptions are made for seeing eye dogs and other service animals of disabled individuals.) It may be difficult if not impossible to find shelter for your pets in the midst of a disaster.

Plan Ahead

If you have time before the disaster strikes:

Pet Emergency Supplies Kit

Assemble a portable pet emergency supplies kit. Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you will need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible storage place and store them in easily carried containers, like a duffel bag, back pack, or covered trash container.

Your portable pet emergency supplies kit should include:

Know What to Do

man with his petsKnow what to do as a disaster approaches. Often warnings are issued hours, even days in advance. At the first hint of a disaster, act to protect you pet.

You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your pets are likely to be, know where your pet emergency supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home, if necessary. If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Birds

Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist birds feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transportation. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.

Reptiles

Reptiles, such as snakes, can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be put into more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snakes require frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.

Small Mammals

Small mammals such as hamsters, gerbils, etc. should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food, bowls, and water bottles.

Summary

Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

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