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Preparing For The Worst (Emergency & Disaster Preparedness For Pets)

In our region, most of us have considered what we’d do in case of an earthquake. Those of us who have furry, feathered, or finned family members need to keep them in mind as we create our emergency plans. Of course, emergencies can be brief or long-lasting and come in many forms from being snow-bound to dealing with active volcanoes to long-term power outages.

The two most effective things pet owners can do to prepare for emergencies is to microchip their animals and make sure that their pets always wear collars and tags with current contact information. This is critical for indoor-only and shy pets because when their humans are frantic, timid dogs and cats can also panic, act erratically, and try to run as far from the chaos as possible.

Create an evacuation plan

If conditions are not safe for humans, they certainly are not safe for smaller animals who rely on us for survival. When evacuating, taking your pets with you is their only real chance of survival because they probably won’t have access to food or water as long as you’re gone. Evacuees are often not allowed to return home for several weeks. What pet supplies will you need if you can’t go back home for a few weeks?

As you think about how you’ll evacuate your home in an emergency, consider how you’ll get your pets out of the house at the same time. Keep their crates or leashes near your evacuation supplies. If you want to be even more prepared, gather a pet emergency kit that includes the supplies listed below.

Gather emergency supplies

Keep pet emergency supplies with your human emergency supplies. If you often travel with your animals, it’s a great idea to keep these in your car. I always have a kit in my car in case disaster strikes while I’m out on pet sitting rounds.

At a minimum, this emergency kit should include a carrier or crate, leash, several days worth of food and water, a week’s worth of medications, and comfort toys (such as blankets  or beds that smell like home, or chew toys for anxious dogs).

Talk with your veterinarian to hear their advice on what supplies they suggest that you gather. If your pets take medications, work with your vet to make sure that you always have extra on hand.

The easiest way to create a pet emergency kit is to buy a ready-made first aid kit. These kits are difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores, but many online stores have these. Here are a few to get you started:

The less expensive way to create a pet emergency kit is to build it yourself. The American Red Cross has an excellent list of supplies for a “Pet first aid kit”. (This is the list I started with and my kit has grown larger through the years.)

For details on the best way to prepare for each different type of emergency, visit the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ Emergency planning guide for pet owners booklet.

Make a list of emergency caregivers

Know what safe places are options for you and your pets during an emergency. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it’s wise to have a another plan for their safety and comfort. Some pet sitters/nannies can foster their clients’ animals in an emergency. Friends and family are another great option for temporary pet shelters. Many veterinarians can board animals, but this is probably the most costly option.

To be completely prepared, have a safe place option outside your immediate area in case your safe place option close to home is also evacuated. If nothing else, keep a list of pet-friendly hotels and motels within a 60 mile radius.

For tips specific to birds, reptiles, and small animals, visit the ASPCA’s Disaster preparedness article and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ Emergency planning guide for pet owners booklet.

Worst case scenario

It’s a good idea to make sure that your estate planning includes provisions for your animals.

(Note: Nonexclusive use of this article has been granted to other pet industry organizations but Kari Kells retains copyright.)

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