In case of emergency…

Greetings pet families! 

September is National Emergency Preparedness month, and with all sorts of natural disasters wreaking havoc across the country, this seems as good a time as any to discuss how to prepare to survive a disaster with your furry family members. 

Seeing the heartbreaking videos coming out of Texas after Hurricane Harvey of pets separated from their families awaiting rescue and struggling to survive was gutwrenching, and left me wondering how prepared I would be to ensure the safety of my whole family if catastrophe struck here. None of us would want to leave our pets behind, but without proper planning, that could become an unfortunate reality in a time of crisis. 

Luckily, it doesn’t appear (at least at time of post) that Irma will have devastating effects for us here in central PA, but the best time to plan for any type of crisis is anytime before you are under threat. 

So, what steps can we take to plan for our whole families’ safety during a natural disaster? 

The most important thing is to always follow all guidelines and directives from emergency management officials. Since natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires are inherently difficult to predict, planning and being prepared for the worst ahead of time is crucial to health and safety. 

In addition to preparing your home/shelter and for human family members, there are some specific things you can have at the ready. Your pet evacuation kit should be packed ahead of time in an easy to carry, waterproof bag/container, and include the following (adapted from the American Veterinary Medical Association):

Food/medicine

  • 3-7 days worth of food (dry/canned)
  • Two week supply of any needed medicine 
  • At least 7 days supply of fresh water
  • Food and water bowls
  • Liquid dish soap to sanitize bowls

Pet first aid kit

  • Anti diarrhea medication
  • Bandage rolls, tape, and scissors
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Rubbing alcohol to sanitize wounds 
  • Latex gloves 
  • Saline solution for irrigation
  • Tweezers
  • Towel/washcloth
  • The American Red Cross has a pet first aid app you can download to your phone! Find it here: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps

Sanitary supplies

  • Litter pan, litter, and scoop for cats 
  • Newspaper, potty pads, paper towels, trash bags 
  • Bleach to disinfect messes 

Important paperwork/documents 

  • Identifcation/proof of ownership and photos in case you and your pet get separated 
  • Medical records 
  • Vet contact info

Travel supplies

  • Extra collars/harnesses with up to date tags and leash
  • Crate/pet carrier with your contact info
  • Flashlight with extra batteries 
  • Muzzle (many pets can display aggressive behavior when under duress)

Comforting items

  • Favorite toys and blankets, etc

For more information and tips, check out the AVMA’s and the Red Cross’s sites for pet preparedness in emergencies. 
Now that you know what and how to prepare, the next thing you are probably wondering is where can you go? If you are like me (and most of our clients), you have a large pet family to evacuate and may not be sure of pet friendly places to seek shelter if you don’t have friends/family in the area. 

Bring Fido is a great website where you can search for pet friendly hotels. I used this site personally when I drove my clan back from the west coast; it made finding places to stay along our route easy and convenient (which was much appreciated in an otherwise stressful time since i quickly learned my cats are not great road trip companions 😉).

Disasters can come on quickly and without much warning, but with a little planning, you can be sure to stay safe in the midst of whatever chaos comes your way. After all, better safe than sorry! 

– Becki 

(Edit: this post originally contained unverified information regarding hotels being required to accept pets during disasters, but this information has been confirmed UNTRUE — the law only requires emergency shelters to accept pets — and has been removed.)

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