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Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction as he made his way across the Gulf of Mexico and into Texas. Lives were lost, families were disrupted and pets were left behind as everyone headed for higher ground. And while the Southwest might not be hurricane prone none of us are immune from the threat of a natural disaster.
When a disaster strikes, it’s too late to make a plan. You may only have time to grab a few things, or you may simply flee with the clothes on your back. The time to plan for a disaster is now. Planning for a tornado, hurricane, flood or fire, should include a plan for your pets. What will happen to your pet? Make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your dog or cat.
According to the Center for Disease Control, leaving your pet behind is not a wise thing to do. Not only does it leave your pet in danger, but it puts pet owners and first responders in danger as well. Pets left alone during a disaster are more likely to be injured, lost or even die. Responsible pet owners should know ahead of time what shelters will be available or what type of assistance will be offered in case of disaster. When you include pets in your disaster plan you keep them safe until the crisis is over.
When creating your disaster plan, consider what might impact the area of the country in which you live. Disasters can strike without much notice, it’s important to be prepared:
Make Sure Your Pet Wears His Collars and Tags—The information on your pets tag should be up to date with current contact information.
Microchip Your Pet—When you microchip your pet you increase the chance of a reunion with your pet. It’s important to register the chip. If you don’t register the chip, no one can find you if your pet becomes lost or injured.
Purchase a Pet Carrier for Each Pet—Write the name of your pet on his or her crate. Also include your name, address, phone number and other contact information. It’s important that your pet become accustomed to his crate before a disaster happens. Take him for rides in the car to allow him to adjust to being enclosed in the crate.
Keep a Leash and the Carrier Near an Exit—Keep these items nearby just in case you need to leave at the last minute: Keeping your pet in a harness or seat belt in your car will help YOU remain calm in a disaster. The last you thing you need while in a panic is a dog that wants to sit on your lap while you drive.
Decide Where You and Your Pet Are Going To Stay—In a disaster you may have limited options when it comes to shelter:
When you shelter in place at home with your pet make sure your shelter is pet-friendly. Select an interior room with little to no windows, remove anything toxic, and make sure your pet can’t squeeze into a tight space.
Make sure your designated shelter accepts pets. Contact your local emergency management agency ahead of time to determine if you are able to bring your pet along with you if you are not able to stay in your home.
If you need to accommodate your pet:
Call around to determine who might accommodate your pet in case of a disaster. Call the Humane Society, a local animal shelter and your veterinarian.
If you plan to stay with a friend or family member, call ahead to make sure your pet is welcome.
Determine which hotels along your evacuation route are pet-friendly.
Food—Make sure you have at least two weeks worth of food and water for each pet. Keep all pet food in air-tight and waterproof containers. Pack food and water bottles and a can opener if you are bringing canned food for your pet.
Cats—Cats will need a litter box and cat litter
Dogs—Pet waste bags are a necessity. As a responsible pet owner you will need to clean up after your dog.
Cleaning Supplies—Cleaning supplies are a necessity if you plan to shelter in place. Make sure you have items such as bleach, paper towels, trash bags, etc.
Medications—Make sure you have enough medication for your pet for the duration of your shelter. Ideally you should have at least two weeks worth of medication for your pet.
Medical Records—In your disaster kit keep copies of the following items:
Current Vaccination Record, including Rabies Vaccination for both dogs and cats. Make sure your dog or cat is up to date on all of his vaccinations.
During a disaster it’s important to remain calm and not panic. This might be difficult but it will help keep you, and your pet safe until the disaster is over. Remind yourself, as well, that you need to take care of your health, as well as the health of your pet.
Make sure you wash your hands after coming into contact with your pet, or if you clean up after your pet. Disasters tend to bring on new diseases and you don’t want to transmit these to yourself or your pet.
Wash your hands when handling food or treats. Your disaster shelter might be dirty or contaminated and once again, you don’t want to transmit ANYTHING!
When you clean out the litter box, wash your hands. You may have limited access to medical care during this time, so once again, it’s important you minimize your risk of spreading a deadly virus or disease.
Following these tips and preparing in advance are crucial for making it through a disaster. If you need to leave your pets behind you have reassurance that they will be okay until you are able to return to them. Visit the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov for more information on keeping your pet healthy and safe.
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