Most families have some sort of emergency plan in place to keep their loved ones safe should an unforeseen disaster occur. But what about our pets? Are they included in your plans?
While it might not be the first thing on your mind when you bring home a new puppy, disaster preparedness is something every pet owner needs to spend some time thinking about.
June is National Pet Preparedness Month, so we’re looking at ways you can prepare for any disastrous event, from a hurricane to a sudden evacuation. Use this comprehensive disaster preparedness guide to keep your furry, four-legged friends safe.
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The ultimate disaster preparedness checklist for pet owners
Image via Pixabay
1. Get a pet rescue window decal
Many parents already have these rescue alert stickers in place for their children, but did you know you can also use them to notify rescue personnel of any pets in your household? Rescue decals can be found in most pet stores, and the ASPCA even offers them for free! Just fill out a simple form, and they’ll mail you a decal where you can include the type and number of pets in your home. Place the sticker somewhere highly visible, preferably the front door. The ASPCA also recommends that if time allows, you should write “EVACUATED” across the sticker if you end up leaving with your pets during an emergency.
2. Keep your pet’s license and collar info up-to-date
If you move or change your phone number, always make sure to update your contact info on Fido’s collar. It’s good practice to periodically check that this info is clearly legible, and be sure to include your contact info on your dog’s carrier in case you become separated. Microchipping your dog is one of the easiest ways for rescuers to identify your pet and have him returned to you, should he go missing.
3. Select a temporary caregiver
Choose a temporary caregiver before disaster strikes, so if you ever need to place your pets with a trusted individual, you won’t have the added stress of finding someone who’s up to the task. Ideally, you’ll choose someone who lives close by and has easy access to your home. Swapping keys is a good idea, and make sure to keep this person’s contact info safe and accessible.
4. Select a safe haven
If you need to evacuate suddenly, finding temporary housing for your pets may be necessary. Never leave your pets behind! Remember, if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your dog or cat.
Your veterinarian can be an excellent source for safe boarding options. Call your local animal shelter to determine if they take pets during an emergency, and create a list of pet-friendly hotels outside of your immediate area. You can also include friends and family on this list, if they are willing to help by housing you and your dog.
5. Have pet carriers on standby
Emergencies can strike when we’re least expecting them. Store your pet carriers in an easy-to-access place where you can retrieve them at a moment’s notice. If your dog or cat isn’t used to the carrier, the CDC suggests practicing loading them into it ahead of time. Having your pets get used to being in the car is another good idea to make an evacuation less stressful.
6. Plan for emergencies with your geographic area in mind
Your particular area may be prone to earthquakes, floods, or widespread fires. Pack and plan an emergency kit (more on that below) accordingly.
7. Have a plan for sheltering in place
If an emergency requires you to shelter in place, make sure you choose a room that is safe for your pets. Select a room with the least amount of windows, and remove any toxic chemicals or plants from the area.
8. Practice caution when returning home
After an emergency, things may look or smell different, which can be disorienting and frightening to your dog. Keep your pup leashed when you go outside, to prevent them from bolting until he becomes familiarized with his new environment. You’ll also want to check the area for any of the following hazards: downed power lines, spilled chemicals, contaminated water, and exposed wiring.
How to create a pet emergency kit
When you’re in panic mode, things tend to slip through the cracks, so creating a simple pet emergency kit is a smart move when it comes to disaster preparedness. It doesn’t take long to put together, and should the unthinkable happen, you’ll be glad you did.
All you need to do is stock an easy-to-carry backpack with critical pet necessities, and then stow your kit in a safe place—preferably near the front door of your home. Try to keep the backpack as light as possible so it’s easy to carry. To prevent it from being left behind, you may want to designate one person in your family who will be in charge of grabbing the bag if an emergency leads to an evacuation.
Items to include in a pet emergency kit
- Food: Aim for a three day supply, and keep in mind—canned food lasts longer. Choose cans with pop tops, or be sure to pack a can opener. Don’t forget to rotate and replace food items as they expire.
- Bottled water: Plan on one bottle per day. Four bottles should be sufficient.
- Collapsible feeding bowls: these convenient space savers will make feeding time easier, and they’re inexpensive additions. You may also want to pick up a dog water bottle, designed specifically for our canine companions.
Pet first aid kit: this item is an absolute must. Pick up a compact kit (and a pet first aid book while you’re at it) from Amazon or your local pet store. The American Veterinary Medical Association also notes the importance of following up any emergency first aid administered to your pet with immediate professional veterinary care.
- Medications: If your pet takes medication regularly, make sure to include several doses in your kit.
- A leash and extra collar: These important items may be forgotten in the hurried confusion of an emergency. Pack an extra of each to be on the safe side.
- Booties/paw protectors: These will protect your dog’s feet from frigid temps, broken glass, stones, and uneven terrain.
- Creature comforts: Stress levels will be high during an emergency situation. Ease any frazzled nerves by packing your dog some familiar comforts such as toys, blankets, and treats.
- Flashlight/glow sticks: In the event of a power-outage, extra lighting will come in handy.
Important paperwork: Keep all paperwork dry by storing it in a sealed ziplock bag. Include vaccination records, your vet’s contact information, an emergency contact list, a medication list, feeding instructions, and a list of pet-friendly hotels in case you need a safe place to stay.
- A current photo of your dog: In case you become separated from your dog, a photo will help others identify him, and it will also prove your ownership once you’re reunited.
Where to Find Items
For the money-conscious among us, you’ll be happy to hear that dollar stores are a great place to scoop up many of the items on this list. You can pick up cheap chew toys, treats, and a stash of glowsticks there. You may even be able to find a compact emergency foil blanket!
Amazon is a good place to search for a well-stocked pet first aid kit. You can check out Walmart or Target for most of your other pet emergency needs. Be sure to save your shopping bags, too—they make perfect poop bags. (You can never have too many poop bags.)
Our pets are an integral part of our families, and it’s our duty to protect them. Keep this disaster preparedness guide handy the next time you’re out shopping so you can start accumulating supplies as they go on sale. You’ll sleep better at night knowing you are prepared for whatever unexpected curveball might come your way.
Preparation is the key player in boosting your pet’s survival odds during a disaster, so please consider sharing this post to help fellow pet parents prepare for the unexpected!