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Disaster Preparation for Pets

By Melissa Breyer
April 24, 2012; 1:51 PM

Personally, I don’t care much for thinking about disasters. I put together an emergency kit for my family, promptly stuffed it it the closet and worked on forgetting about it. Somehow it just makes the threat feel all too real. But we should all have emergency supply kits, especially homes in the southern states during this very active hurricane season. And not just for ourselves, but for our pets as well.

Are your pets prepared for a disaster? There are a number of actions you can undertake before a disaster strikes that will have you and your pets better prepared. Here are tips for how to prepare your pet for a disaster, and what to put in a pet emergency supply kit.

The National Hurricane Center makes these suggestions to complete prior to a disaster:

• Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.

• Have a current photograph of your pet.

• Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.

• Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal–carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.

• Plan your evacuation strategy and don’t forget your pet!

• Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm’s way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.

• If you plan to shelter your pet–work it into your evacuation route planning.

Tips for during a disaster

• Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.

• Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm–reassure them and remain calm.

• Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.

After a disaster

• Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home–often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.

• If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.

• After a disaster animals can become aggressive or defensive–monitor their behavior.

Create a pet disaster supply kit, adapted from the United States Humane Society:

• Proper identification including immunization records.

• A carrier or cage.

• Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container.

• Collar and leash.

• Pet first aid kit.

• Pet first aid book.

• Blankets or towels for bedding.

• Food and water for at least three days for each pet, bowls, and a manual can opener.

• Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

• Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.

• Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, and grooming items.

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