Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, blizzards, terrorism; matter where one lives, no one is immune from potential natural or man-made disaster disrupting our lives. Most of us are probably given very little thought to what we might do if displaced by disaster and even less to what we do with our pets.
The following is transcribed from an AVMA Animal Tracks Podcast interview with Dr. Heather Case, Coordinator of Emergency Preparedness and Response with the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Case offered these tips about incorporating pets into a disaster preparedness plan.
Dr. Case obviously in a disaster you don’t want to wait until last-minute or after-the-fact to prepare. So what should pet owners do today to prepare for disaster tomorrow?
Dr. Case: We would recommend that people do think about the things prior to a disaster. Some of the things that they want to keep in mind is how they have identified their pet, be sure you have up-to-date current contact information in the form of permanent identification either microchip or a tag on the animal ‘s collar. The other thing we might recommend you have a current photograph taken of you and your pet in the unfortunate event that you might be separated, that will help in finding your pet. Some of the other things to have in planning are a supply of food, water, make sure you have a two week supply of any medication that your pet might be on. Think about things like a safe carrier or crate for your pet, making sure that you have someone outside of the affected area that you could contact in case you need to evacuate somewhere quickly. You want to think about having copies of your veterinary medical records, proof of your ownership, any vaccination records, as well as an emergency contact list for people such of your veterinarian, animal shelter; places where you can get supplies if you need them.
What roles should your veterinarian have been disaster planning?
Dr. Case: Well, certainly you should consult your veterinarian regarding emergency first aid procedures, which may become necessary if you are evacuating in the face of a disaster or emergency. In addition, you want to be certain that you are comfortable with your animal’s current medical condition. If you have any senior citizen pet, an animal with special needs your veterinarian is a well-versed and trained in how to care properly for your pet and will be able to assist you in making sure that you’ve got appropriate food, water, things like that in your emergency preparedness kit for your pet. Again I want to remind pet owners to have vaccinations up-to-date and keep copies of the veterinary records with you, and again with your preparedness kit in the event you might have to evacuate. in any event, work very closely with your veterinarian to make sure that we can maintain the health and well-being of your pets during a stressful event such as an evacuation for some type of emergency or disaster.
Is it good to act out or practice your disaster plan with your pets?
Dr. Case: It is really a good idea to have not only a plan in place but have practiced that plan. Particularly if you are like so many of us to have more than one pet, making a list of the items that you might need in in case you need to take off quickly or evacuate is useful. However, putting five crates into a vehicle and making an evacuation may be a little bit more challenging than actually even talking about it. I would strongly recommend that you practice your plan you may find that it is much easier once you have in your mind exactly how you are going to put the crates in, how you are going to get your evacuation kit together, so practicing your plan would be a good idea.
What about after the fact? What factors must pet owners consider upon returning home after disaster?
Dr. Case: Following an evacuation for some type of emergency, particularly if it is unfortunately a disaster event, it is important to realize that if your home has been damaged pets are particularly sensitive to debris to their paws, the pads on their feet. You really need to be careful before you let your animal back into the house that you make sure that there is nothing they can injure or damage your pet. Also recognize that pets are very sensitive to change of any sort, and so as it is stressful to an owner to have to evacuate during an emergency, it is also stressful for the pet. So we would recommend that you keep that in mind when you return to your home after having to evacuate, make sure it is safe for your animals before you let them back into the environment and again be prepared for emergencies as much as you possibly can.
For more tip on disaster preparedness, visit the disaster preparedness section at AVMA.org.