Many of us have been advised to make emergency preparedness plans for our family, but what about our pets? Whether you care for dogs, birds or cats, their safety can be equally at risk during an emergency. And, as with the members of your family, advance preparations may make all the difference in keeping your pets safe when disaster strikes.
Here are some key points for putting together an emergency plan for your pets:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website Ready.gov says that leaving your pets at home if you need to evacuate during an emergency should only be considered as a last resort. If you must leave them home, the site says to never leave your pet chained outside. Leave them inside your home, not in a cage or carrier, with food and plenty of water.
And because many emergency shelters will not accept pets, according to Ready.gov, it’s important to identify a few out-of-town locations now where you can shelter your animals. Be sure to ask about any restrictions (like the number of pets, the size of the animal, etc.) so you have accurate information. Shelter options include:
If you have more than one pet, you may need to make separate arrangements to shelter them all safely. Some facilities may have restrictions on the number of animals they can accept. And it’s possible that even friends and family may find caring for more than one pet overwhelming.
Ensure your pets have up-to-date identification tags with their names and your phone number (a cell phone number may be best) attached to their collars at all times. Ready.gov suggests that, during an emergency, you also attach your pet’s shelter location and phone number to his collar; if he becomes lost, that extra layer of information may help you reunite with him.
Another precaution may be to microchip each of your pets; these services are typically done by a veterinarian and some animal shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States; a microchip registers your pet with a nationwide database accessible to vets and rescue shelters.
If you take this option, know that there may be an annual maintenance fee and that you’ll be responsible for updating the contact information associated with your pet.
Put together an animal version of your own emergency kit, which will be essential for your pets during an emergency (whether you shelter in place or evacuate). Ready.gov suggests a number of items:
Ready.gov also offers helpful advice on how to protect your pet during a severe storm, hurricane or other disaster:
With proper preparation and planning, successfully navigating an emergency with your pet(s) can be more manageable and less stressful than you may think.
Originally published April 2014.