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Disaster Preparedness for Pets

By JoAnne Overstreet
Hidden Springs Resort

Hurricane Season is here! Disaster can strike anywhere...anytime. It doesn't matter where you live. We can all be affected by disasters - whether it's a natural disaster, wildfire, terrorist attack, or hazardous spill. Such emergencies may require a brief or permanent evacuation from your home. If you must evacuate, always bring your pets with you. If it's not safe for you to be in your home, then it's not safe for your pets. The best thing you can do to ensure the safety and well being of your pets is to be prepared.

Disaster Preparedness Checklist:

1. Find a Safe Place to Stay. This could be the home of a friend or family member, a shelter, or pet friendly lodging outside your immediate area.

A. Search for pet friendly lodging outside of your area ahead of time. Be sure to print out the list of accommodations in various nearby cities and keep it with your pet disaster preparedness kit.

B. Contact local shelters to determine policies regarding pets. Most shelters do not accept family pets, and those that do have limits on the number of pets permitted.

C. Compile a list of animal shelters, animal boarding facilities and veterinarians that may provide safe shelter for your pets in an emergency.

2. Identify Your Evacuation Zone and Route. Determine the evacuation zone you are in so you'll know when you have to evacuate and the recommended route. Evacuate to the safest location that's as close to your home as possible. Traveling with a pet can sometimes cause slowdowns, so be sure to leave early enough to give yourself extra travel time.

3. Pet Identification (ID) Tags. In addition to your pet's permanent ID tag, attach a temporary ID tag to your pet's collar and include the address and phone number of your temporary shelter. If your pets are traveling in a carrier, be sure to secure identification to the travel carrier.

4. Line-up a Pet Sitter/Caregiver in your Absence. In the event a disaster strikes while you're away from home, line-up a trusted person to look after your pets. Consider someone who lives or works close to your home. Be sure the caregiver is comfortable with your pets, knows the location of your pet disaster preparedness kit, and has access to your house.

5. Pet Rescue Alert Window Decal. Every home should be equipped with an emergency window decal at all times. It is a safety measure for everyday emergencies as well as disasters. If a disaster strikes when you're not home and your caregiver is unable to reach your pets, this decal will alert rescue workers that pets are inside your home. If you and your pets must evacuate (and time permits) write "Evacuated" across the decal. Be sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes the types and number of pets in your household.

Pet Disaster Preparedness Kit. Your pet's disaster kit should contain everything your pets need to survive and be as comfortable as possible until the danger passes. All of the items in the kit should be stored in a sturdy, waterproof carrier, that's easy to carry. Keep your kit readily available so that it can be accessed quickly.

A. Your kit should include:

* Listing of pet friendly lodging

* Listing of shelters, pet boarding facilities and vets that may provide safe shelter for your pets.

* Food for a minimum of three days for each pet - kept in an airtight container. If you have canned food, include a manual can opener. Check expiration dates on canned and dry food and replenish as necessary.

* Bottled water for a minimum of seven days for each pet.

* Pet food and water travel bowls.

* Pet First Aid Kit

* A two week supply of medications that your pets require. Check dates on medications and replenish as necessary.

* Photocopies of medical records inside a waterproof container (zip lock baggie).

* Kitty litter box and litter.

* Disposable bags for pet waste.

* Extra collar, harness and leash as well as a pet transport carrier. Check that the carrier is secure so that your pets are safe and can not escape.

* Recent photos and description of your pets. If you become separated from your pets, this will help others identify them. Note if the pet(s) have a micro chip.

* Up-to-date pet information sheet. This document should include the name and address of your pet's owner, vet, information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavioral issues. Ensure your pet's shots are current.

* Other items that might be helpful are: flashlight, blanket, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, household bleach, outdoor yard stake and a long leash.

Remember, don't wait until the last minute to prepare. Many disasters come without warning.

Published September 6, 2011

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