Animals can sometimes be overlooked when creating a disaster preparedness plan for your household but are still at risk during an emergency.
Floods and home fires are some of the most common disasters that families in Minnesota and the Dakotas face. It’s important to have a plan in place for your family members, pets, and livestock in the event that a disaster strikes close to home. Below are some ways to include your pets and livestock in your disaster preparedness plan. Note: This post mainly focuses on cats, dogs, and livestock. For information on other pet species, visit the links in the Additional Resources section at the end.
10 Ways to Include Your Pets in Your Disaster Preparedness Plans
1. Include pets in evacuation practice drills so they feel comfortable riding in their travel carriers. Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in.
2. Microchip your pet(s). Register your pet’s microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information updated at all times.
3. Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. This kit should include:
– Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
– Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener.
– Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container
– A first aid kit.
– Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost.
– Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
– Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable
4. Communicate which family member is tasked with grabbing the emergency pet disaster kit. Make sure each member of your family knows your pet evacuation plan.
5. Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.
6. Know where your pet might hide when stressed or scared. Practice catching your pet, if needed.
7. Identify which pet friendly hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept you and your pets in an emergency. The majority of Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters.
8. Create a buddy system with neighbors so everyone is prepared to help if a disaster strikes when a family is away.
9. Affix a pet alert window cling to a visible front window and write the number of pets in your house. This is critical for first responders to know how many animals may need to be evacuated.
10. Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for access to training on dog and cat first aid and other resources to be prepared for a disaster.
When Disaster Strikes
If you must leave your pet behind in the event of a disaster NEVER leave them chained outside. Leave them loose inside your home near entrances with plenty of food and water.
While the best way to ensure your pet stays safe during a disaster is to evacuate them with you, remember never to delay escape or endanger yourself or family to rescue a family pet.
Caring for Pets After Disaster
Be aware of hazards at ground level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that could injure your pet.
Watch your animals closely and keep them under control as fences and gates may be damaged or destroyed.
Disasters can alter the scents and the appearance of areas your pet is familiar and comfortable with. Make sure you monitor their well being and be aware that changes in levels of aggression and defensiveness are possible.
10 Ways to Prepare Livestock for Disasters
1. Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
2. Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
3. Hold disaster drills and practice emergency procedures with all employees and animal owners.
4. Make sure you have the trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal.
5. Make available experienced handlers and drivers that understand your evacuation plans.
6. Help organize safe holding facilities in your community such as fairgrounds, farms, and racetracks for use in an emergency.
7. Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment.
8. For flooding disasters, move animals, feed, and water supplies to higher ground. Act quickly at the first sign of rising water.
9. Do not let animals loose to fend for themselves during a disaster unless a wildfire threatens your area. Animals on the road can be injured and can create a hazard for evacuating motorists.
10. Post a sign for rescue workers noting the number and types of animals left behind.
– Red Cross page on Pet Disaster Preparedness
– CDC guidelines for protecting your pets during an emergency
– Livestock Disaster Planning Guidelines from Palo Alto Humane Society
– Disaster Tips for Reptiles and Amphibians
– Further Tips on Disaster Preparedness from The American Humane Society
Post by Kieran White, American Red Cross Volunteer