Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners

Each year the United States is faced with natural disasters. Certain parts of our country are more prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or wildfires. Sometimes residents of these areas are able to prepare ahead of time for these events. However, disasters often strike without warning or in unexpected locations and there is little time to prepare. People and pets residing in the Southeastern United States are suffering from the catastrophic effects of hurricanes. Some areas have seen over 50 inches of rain fall in just a few days. Homes have been destroyed, businesses are under water, and many people and pets have died or been displaced from their homes and families.

Longwood Veterinary Center is currently accepting donations for the animals affected by both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. 100% of the donations will go toward selected shelter’s Amazon wish list, such as the Harris County Animal Shelter! Shelters are overcrowded and in need of funding for temporary housing, bedding, food and medical care.

These current events give us pause to wonder, what should you do if faced with a similar situation? All families must have a plan for how to react in the event of a disaster; this plan needs to include your pets.

The following are recommendations compiled from the ASPCA, FEMA, and the AVMA:

1. Get a Rescue Sticker
• Make sure the sticker is visible to rescue workers.
• Include the types and number of pets in your home, as well as the name and phone number of your veterinarian.
• If you must evacuate with your pets and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.

2. Arrange Safe Shelter
If You Do NOT Evacuate
• Identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.
• Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers. Make sure they are wearing identification.
• Keep necessary medications, a supply of pet food, and water inside watertight containers.

If You MUST Evacuate
• Do NOT leave your pets behind. Remember, not all shelters accept pets!
• Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
• Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
• Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
• Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pets.

3. Identification
Make sure all of your pets have proper identification. Collars and tags are helpful, but a microchip is fail proof. Make sure the microchip is registered and your contact information is up-to-date in case of separation.

4. Prepare an Emergency Kit
Items to consider keeping in or near your “Evac-Pack” include:
• Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include). Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care.
• 3-7 day supply of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
• Litter or paper toweling
• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
• Extra collar or harness, as well as an extra leash
• Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may expire and lose effectiveness.)
• Store at least a 7 day supply of bottled water for each person and pet. Store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months.
• A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
• Flashlight
• Blanket
• Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
• Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter, crate
• Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, crate
• You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.

5. After the Storm
• Planning and preparation will help you weather the disaster, but your home may be a very different place afterward. Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells may have vanished, and your pet will probably be disoriented and could become lost. For a few days, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house.
• Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back to their normal routines as soon as possible, but be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health issues, talk to your veterinarian.
• Consider the transmission of diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife, unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put your pet at risk for contracting numerous illnesses.

By providing this information, we hope we have made you feel more confident in your ability to manage your pets in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency! Please consult the nurses and doctors of Longwood Veterinary Center if you have any questions or concerns.

Written By: Tara Corridori, LVT