Disaster Prep for Pet Owners

November 14, 2011 | By Amy Lieberman | Category: Care & Safety | 2 comments
Tags: care & safety, health & wellness, recalls & alerts

As the weather outside turns frightful, are you ready in case of emergency?

If a natural disaster is coming your way – be it hurricane, tornado, or snow storm – do you have an emergency plan in place for you and your family, including your pets?

More than one third of American cat and dog owners don't have any kind of disaster preparedness plan to fall back on, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But more than 85 percent of dog owners and 81 percent of cat owners intend to bring their pets along with them in an event of an evacuation, according to a recent study the ASPCA conducted.

Following through on that plan might not always be possible, pet owners should know, since the American Red Cross does not allow companion animals – aside from service animals – to stay with their owners in its evacuation shelters.

But there are certain preparatory measures and steps pet owners can take to ensure that their pet will be in the post possible position if a disaster does strike home.

Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA's field investigations and response team, says that the first step pet owners should take is to microchip their pets, in case they become separated from them during or after a disaster.

When a large-scale and deadly tornado struck Joplin, Mo., in March, 1,300 pets wound up in animal shelters. Less than five percent of them had identification and more than 700 of them were not reclaimed by their owners.

The ASPCA hosted a mega-adoption event shortly after and adopted out 754 pets in two days, which was “amazing,” Rickey said, but noted that “we much would have preferred to see all those pets reunited with their families.

When Hurricane Irene hit New York City over the summer, prompting approximately 9,000 people to evacuate, only 228 pets were taken to local shelters, which did allow pets.

Pet owners can call or read online in advance and check to see if their city or municipal shelters accept pets, which typically will be kept in a separate area. While some pet owners might rather have their pets by their sides at all times, Rickey says the approach can help reduce stress levels for both humans and animals, which are looked after by staff on hand.

When evacuating with pets, traveling with crates, food and water bowls, any type of medications and other necessary products is typically a good idea. Vaccination records are also key, according to Deborah Mandell, pet safety advisor for the American Red Cross.

“Most places will not take pets if they are not current on their rabies and other vaccines and you need to have records of that,” she explained.

Pet owners can also be extra-prepared by arming themselves with a pet first aid kit, which is commercially available, and by taking a pet first aid course, which the American Red Cross offers.

According Mandell, more than 18,500 people have taken the courses across the U.S. since the Red Cross began to offer them in 2008. People can contact their local Red Cross chapters to find out about availability.

Being prepared for the worst can also come in handy in situations like winter blizzards, which aren't always life threatening, but can cause power outages for days and lead to people leaving their homes and checking into a pet friendly hotel. Vaccination records and carriers may come in handy in that situation.

“Basically we are focused on getting all pet owners aware, helping them be prepared for whatever disaster could happen,” Mandell explained. “People are going to want to take their animals with them and they need to know what it takes to do that.”

Comments (2)

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Stacy H.

Stacy H.
4 years ago

I keep first aid kits in both cars and I keep all their info at the ready, but I need to do more to be prepared. If I had to leave they would definatly go with me and we would stay in a tent if we had too.

Good Point | Reply ›


4 years ago

I know I would take all of my pets with me and try and save all the others that I could along the way having pet carriers and pet food to the brim of my car and every animal I could save from the disaster in my car including my grandma's koi fish and goldfish who I would have to imprivise for and they are in an outdoor pond so that may make it even harder and there are always the little babies and there are at least 30 or more in that pond I would have to write all of their names down and check them off the list once I had them safe in the car in a bag or tank of water.

Good Point | Reply ›

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