June is National Disaster Prepar-edness Month. Along with warm weather comes tornado season. Flood season. Winds. Volatile warm air/cold air mixtures that can send the community into a tailspin.
Though we may pride ourselves on being ready for potential disaster, are we prepared to deal with our pets if required to evacuate our homes?
In a disaster situation, it’s important to make a comprehensive plan before it happens, not just for ourselves, but also for the animals that depend on us. If we have to leave our homes, what will happen to the non-human members of our families? This spring’s flooding gave us a taste of what might happen, and now is the time to think about the possibilities before the really bad stuff hits.
WHAT TO DO WITH SPOT?
The most important thing to do for your pet if you must evacuate is to take your best friend with you. Our companion animals’ instincts aren’t what they were 4,000 years ago. They depend on their human guardians for just about everything, so leaving them behind won’t work.
That presents another problem. Red Cross disaster shelters normally do not accept pets, due to states’ health and safety regulations and other issues. You may be fortunate enough to find shelter with friends or relatives who will gladly accept your dog, cat, iguana or macaw. If that’s not an option, you will need to make plans in advance.
Find out what hotels and motels outside the immediate area allow pets. Many have restrictions on size, number and species, so be prepared to ask the right questions. If the hotel does not accept pets, ask if it would waive that policy in emergency situations. Prepare a list of boarding facilities or veterinarians who would shelter pets in an emergency, and include 24-hour telephone numbers.
That perennial Boy Scout motto should be yours, as well, when thinking about taking care of your pets in a disaster. Make a portable pet disaster supply kit, and include the following:
• A first aid kit, medications and veterinary records. Medications and records should be stored in a water-tight container.
• Sturdy leashes and carriers to transport pets safely. Ensure that your animals can’t escape. If you lose your pet in a chaotic situation, he or she will be frightened, disoriented and probably unable to get back to you.
• Dogs and cats should have buckle collars with current identification tags. If you know where you will be housing your pet, make a temporary ID tag by writing the information on masking tape with permanent marker and placing it on the collar. You can also purchase temporary tags at pet supply stores. In addition to visible ID, a microchip is permanent identification that a pet can’t lose. Veterinary offices, animal shelters and many rescue organization have scanners to read microchip numbers.
• Current photographs of your pets.
• Food, bottled water, bowls, cat litter and litter box, and can opener.
• In the event you have to foster or board your pets, prepare information on feeding schedules, medical problems, behavior problems and the name and number of your veterinarian.
• Toys and pet beds, if they can be easily transported.
Birds need special consideration in case of a disaster. They should always be transported in a secure carrier or cage, large enough so they can stretch their wings. If the weather is cold, wrap the carrier in a blanket. If it’s warm, carry a plant mister to mist feathers every now and then. Don’t put water inside the carrier. Instead, provide fruits and vegetables with high water content. As with dogs and cats, pack a photo of your bird. If there’s no perch in the carrier, line the floor with paper towels and change them often. Try to keep the birds in a quiet place, and do not let them out of the carrier or cage.
House lizards should follow the same precautions as birds. Though snakes can be transported in a pillowcase, they should be transferred to more secure housing once you reach the evacuation site. Take food and a water bowl large enough for soaking, along with a heating pad.
Pocket pets, like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs, should be carried in secure containers or carriers large enough to keep the animals comfortable while sheltered. Their disaster kits should include bedding, food bowls, water bottles and toys.
Remember that even the calmest, most obedient pet may panic, hide or try to escape in in an extreme situation. Check leashes and carriers to make sure they are secure. Transport your cats in carriers, and provide them with an elastic cat collar for quick release, as well as current identification. Never leave your animals alone if there’s a possibility they might escape. Frightened animals may bite or scratch, so it’s important to keep an eye on your companions at all times.
Though we all hope the weather will remain calm and temperatures balmy, it’s a good idea to be pro-active and prepare for the extreme situation. Be prepared. Make a plan. Then relax and hope for the best!
Jean McGroarty is director of the Kokomo Humane Society. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.