Pet Precautions for a Natural Disaster

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Since pets depend on their owners for their safety, always have a plan for your pet in case of a natural disaster or emergency.

The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook(Ulysses Press, 2015) by Scott Finazzo helps tech communities to work together when a crisis happens. Finazzo helps his readers build emergency family plans, treating victims of natural disasters, and establishing a neighborhood emergency response team to keep the neighborhood safe. The following excerpt are his tips to protecting your pets for a natural crisis.

They are as much a part of our family as anyone and depend on us for their well-being. Our pets, unfortunately, can be forgotten when it comes to disasters. Ideally we have made the appropriate preparations for them just as we have for our family members. All too often, this isn’t the case and pets become helpless victims. As a pet owner it is your responsibility to not only ensure they are prepared for a disaster, but to keep them safe in its wake.

Before a Crisis

The first step you can take to prepare your pet is to ensure immunizations are up to date and they have a collar or some type of clear and current identification that includes contact information. In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, nearly 200,000 pets were reportedly displaced. If you and your pets become separated, proper contact information can help expedite reuniting you with your companion.

The next step is to identify a safe evacuation area. A situation may arise that forces you to make a choice: shelter in place or evacuate. When deciding whether to stay home or to evacuate, your pets warrant forethought and consideration. If you must evacuate your home, take your pets with you. Their chance for survival greatly increases if you are able to take them when you leave. Despite “animal instinct,” domesticated pets rely on us for their safety and are unlikely to survive on their own. During a crisis people often evacuate to storm shelters. Bringing your pet with you can complicate the situation. Most shelters do not allow pets, so if you are going to evacuate to a shelter, it is imperative that you check first to ensure that pets are permitted. You should locate pet-friendly shelters or hotels, particularly along your evacuation route.

Then you will want to make preparations in your home. Many of the same items you would set aside for your family to utilize in the event of a disaster should also be considered for your pets.

When discussing pets, we are most commonly referring to dogs and cats. Your pet could be anything from a goldfish to a horse. The important thing is to have items ready in advance to care for them, regardless of size. Your preparations should include:

• At least a three-day supply of food and water
• A pet first aid guide and appropriate supplies
• A leash or harness allowing you to contain a confused or frightened animal
• A carrier or cage large enough for your pet to stand comfortably and turn around in
• Waste cleanup supplies
• Comfort items such as toys or a blanket
• Copies of medical records, including a current picture of your pet

After a Crisis

After a crisis, your pet is going to be stressed and afraid, even if you are able to remain home throughout. Familiar scenery and scents may have changed, potentially causing confusion and altered behavior. Disorientation and fear may cause them to run away. Keep them close. Larger household pets should be fenced or leashed to both comfort and protect them. Keeping them in familiar surroundings reduces stress and helps to ensure their safety. It also reduces their risk of coming in contact with potentially dangerous animals that have been displaced due to the event.

Keep your pets from drinking standing water after a disaster. The water could contain any number of hazardous materials or bacteria. Just as with your family members, your pets should drink bottled water until the authorities deem that tap water is safe to drink.

Exotic pets such as lizards, snakes, and frogs present unique issues. Cold-blooded animals that usually utilize a warming lamp will need some kind of alternative method to keep warm. Consider what your pet will need before the crisis.

Disease

You should take special precautions dealing with animals following a disaster, when the spread of disease is common. Your pets can be exposed to a variety of things that could make them sick. Some of these illnesses can be transmitted to people. Be aware of:

• Rabies, which affects the nervous system and is transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.
• Ringworm is a fungus that can affect the skin, hair, and nails of both humans and animals. It is transmitted from animals to people by way of direct contact with the animal or contact with something the animal has touched.
• Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread by contact with the urine of an infected animal or contaminated water, food, or soil. It can cause significant kidney damage.
• Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases and infections from animal to human.

Many of these can be avoided by ensuring your pet is up to date on its vaccinations, washing your hands before and after pet contact, keeping your pet away from other animals (both within your household and outside of it), using preventative flea and tick treatments, and contacting your vet and/or physician if you suspect any infection has been obtained.

More from The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook:

Recognizing and Treating Victims in Shock


Reprinted with permission from The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook(2015), by Scott Finazzo and published by Ulysses Press.