Hurricane Katrina held so many heart-breaking stories about residents having to abandon their pets at the height of the disaster. While the majority of American families may never experience a major calamity such as a hurricane or an earthquake, disaster can strike anytime, anywhere. There has been growing awareness on the importance of disaster management and emergency preparedness among American homes nowadays, but pet safety during a calamity is often left out.
It’s a good thing that Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act in 2006 after noting the inadequacies demonstrated on pet rescue and safety during Hurricane Katrina. The act was first tested when Hurricane Gustav struck in 2008, and the initial leg of the program worked quite well.
Pet crates were made available at evacuation centers and other pick up points, and owners and their animals were banded with matching codes. They were brought to the same evacuation centers, drastically cutting instances of pets getting separated from their owners.
Although animals have natural instincts for survival, domesticated pets will rely on their owners to keep them safe during a disaster. It is advantageous to have an evacuation plan in place and emergency supplies ready to make it all easier for you, your family and your pets in case you have to abandon your home during an emergency situation.
First, make sure your pet has proper identification at all times, not only when disaster strikes. The most effective way to do this is through a microchip implant such as a dogtracker, by which you can get information on the whereabouts of your pet through satellite service. Otherwise, update identification information on collar tags or leg bands usually used on most pets. This will all come in handy when disasters cause pets to be separated from their owners.
Put together an emergency pet packet or bag containing pertinent records and supplies your pet will need in a disaster situation. Photocopies of pet data and description plus a current photo are highly essential. Keep these in a waterproof plastic bag together with some medications your pet might be on. Have a 3-day supply of pet food and bottled water, handy food and water bowls, a pet first aid kit, extra harness or collars and leashes, and a disposable litter box, especially if you have pet cats. Keep the emergency pet bag in an accessible area of the home, preferably near your main entrance door.
Keep a proper-sized pet carrier nearby so it will be easier and safer to transport them during emergency situations. Make sure to label this with your name and your pet’s name and type or breed.
Next, draft an emergency plan for different scenarios. Some disaster situations may not enable you to carry your pet around, so identify a place that accepts pets, such as a hotel or motel, or look around for pet hotels or animal shelters where you can book them when the situation calls for such.
As much as possible, bring your pets along when you need to evacuate. They’re less likely to get hurt or lost when they’re with you. And to prepare for a worst-case scenario when you have to leave them behind, place a sticker on your front door identifying the presence of pets that reside in your home. This will alert rescue personnel that there are pets needing to be rescued in your home.
Above all, keep your pets healthy at all times. This will increase their chances of survival in the event disaster strikes.