Natural Disaster Preparation: Planning for Pet Safety
What can pet owners do in advance to prepare for a natural disaster?
Natural disasters can often strike with little to no warning. In recent years, Texas has seen such disasters as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fires. It is important to keep any plan simple so that when a disaster strikes, it can be executed quickly. The following is an overview of things to prepare for and consider to ensure your pets will be safe during a natural disaster.
Maintain an important contact number list. Phone numbers to include:
- Fire department
- Local police station
- Animal shelter
- Nearest relative or friend who could shelter you and your pets
Establish a Pet Evacuation Plan for a Natural Disaster
Plan how to get your pets out of the house safely, how to get them off of the property and where to go. Each county has an evacuation plan already in place, but if a disaster occurs in your county, it may be wise to relocate to another county. Calling your local officials to obtain that information before the disaster strikes is important. Evacuating to another location is acceptable as long as it is not in the affected area.
All family members should know the evacuation plan, including route and location to meet with the pets, before the disaster strikes.
- Identify all family pets. Take pictures of each side of your pet. If your pet is lost and rescued by first responders, this may be the only way you find your pet. Collars and tags should have the name of owners with phone numbers on them. All contact information on tags and registration should stay current to ensure you are reunited with your pets if separated.
- Have enough carriers or cages to transport your pets. Identify each carrier with your contact information (e.g., attach a luggage tag to the carrier’s handle) including phone numbers of relatives or friends that can also identify your pet in case you can’t be reached.
- Health conditions that require daily medications should be alerted on collars, tags, carriers and with microchip companies.
- Have proper transportation for evacuation.
- Know which kinds of natural disasters can occur in your region. The type of natural disaster can differ in each region. Disasters such as flooding and fire however can occur anywhere.
Should owners have a pet disaster kit, and if so, what should they include in it?
Pet disaster kits are an important tool in natural disaster preparedness. A kit should include:
- Emergency contact information
- Enough food and water for each pet for a minimum of 72 hours (one week is ideal)
- Pictures of pets for identification. Don’t just keep them on your phone; you may not be able to charge your phone or you may not be able to retrieve it.
- Enough medications for your pets
- Proof of healthcare (i.e., vaccinations, medical conditions) and your veterinarian’s contact information
What if a Disaster Strikes and I am Not Home?
When the location is safe, they will allow you to return home to rescue your pets. It may be helpful to post notifications on the entrance to the house that alert emergency personnel to the number and type of pets present.
In Case of a Natural Disaster, Have These Contacts Prepared
Police station, fire department, local and state veterinarian, local animal shelter and family member or friend that can also identify your pet if you are unable to.
Useful websites for disaster preparation include:
Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), is a licensed veterinary technician who graduated from Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Ms. Plummer works in the Feline Internal Medicine Department at the Texas A&M University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in College Station, Texas.