Friday, May 29, 2009

Pet Disaster Preparedness - Tips and Resources

Summer Is Disaster Preparedness Season

Disasters can happen at anytime or any place. Acts of nature such as hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, or floods, or man-made events such as acts of terrorism or hazardous materials accidents can leave little time to gather the essentials needed for a stay at a temporary shelter. Some of us might not have enough supplies on hand to shelter in place for a few days. When making emergency preparedness plans, it is important not to forget the animals.

Having persevered through two firestorms in the last few years, San Diegans are all too familiar with how quickly evacuation decisions must be made. Unfortunately, due to adverse weather and environment conditions, the odds are high that a fire (or other disasters) will happen again. During this disaster preparedness month, as you review your evacuation plans, don’t forget your pets’ needs too. Even though your pet may escape the disaster, if its unique needs are not met, the chances for survival are severely reduced.

HSUS recommends that all pet owners assemble an emergency supply kit custom tailored for each of your pets, as you would for your other family members. Kits should include:
· A three-day supply of food and water in easy-to-carry containers. (A month’s supply is even better!) Don’t forget bowls or other feeding apparatus as well as dog waste bags and cat litter.
· Up-to-date photos, vaccination records and descriptions of your pets.
· Pet tags: Your pet’s tag should have an additional phone number of someone out of the area in the event it becomes separated from you or lost. Micro-chipping is also recommended. If you have not done so already, it is recommended that you have your pet micro-chipped. In the event you and your pet become separated, the data contained in the chip can facilitate a speedy recovery. Talk to your vet, or go to for more information.
· Extra supplies of required pet meds – ensure these meds are not out-of-date. Also have a pet first-aid kit for your pets.
· Leashes, harnesses and carriers. If your pet uses any medications, keep extra supplies, as well as their medical records and a comprehensive pet first-aid kit. Take first aid classes or train yourself on how to utilize that kit in an emergency. Remember that your pet may be spending several hours or even days inside its carrier, so it should be large enough to ensure their comfort.
· A list of local emergency shelters with pet friendly policies in the area. This should include a list of local animal shelters and your veterinarian. Since help can come in a variety of ways, being ready with resources and prepared with option is often the best anecdote when you are evacuating from a small or large scale disaster. Many services and businesses have offered a multitude of options for those who were displaced by the recent fires and other disasters. Almost all offered or continue to offer free or discounted boarding or veterinary services. The best way to prepare yourself is to do plenty of research in advance of these businesses and maintain an accurate and current list in your disaster plan.
· Create a list of people who can take your pet in or services that can board your pet in an emergency. If, as a result of the disaster, you are unable to care for your pets, a designated care giver can even help you find a permanent, loving home for them. Remember, your care giver or pet sitter is the person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event something should happen to; in effect, they become foster parent to your child. But a word of caution to those who have someone visit their homes during emergencies, the Pet Services & Products Association of San Diego reported that, “Many of the folks evacuated (during Firestorm 2007) were professional pet sitters...who were caring not only for their own homes but five to ten other households.” Because many of these individuals did not necessarily live in the neighborhoods where they were caring for pets, police were unable to verify the authenticity of their claims and could not allow them to enter evacuated districts to check on the animals in their charge. One way to avoid this is to make sure anyone caring for your pets has the same emergency information about your pets and home, and provide them with permission to enter your property.
· Familiarize yourself with your environment, and with any natural disasters that may occur. While the wildfires have garnered the bulk of the media attention in the last couple of years, the San Diego area is also subject to the occasional earthquake. Plan out evacuation routes, and learn the locations of the emergency shelters in their area, especially ones with pet-friendly policies. In addition, you should assemble a list of local animal shelters and veterinarians. If you become separated from your pets, this would be the place to begin your search.

If the need arises to shelter in place, close your windows and doors, stay inside and follow these tips:
• Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say there is an imminent problem. Keep pets under your direct control so that if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them.
• If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies there in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Basements or inside rooms are preferred, depending on the type of emergency.
• Have plenty of plastic bags and newspapers as well as containers and cleaning supplies to help deal with pet waste. Puppy training pads are also useful for this purpose.
• Listen to the radio and don't come out of your shelter until you know it's safe.

If your local government orders an evacuation, take your animals with you and follow these tips:
• Learn your official evacuation routes from your local authorities and media.
• Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate, especially if you have horses or other large animals or if you have several pets.
• Be ready to take your family, your pets, and your emergency kits with you. A good way to circumvent this is to prepare a kit for each person and pet for each car and two to place in the home (one outside, the other inside).
• Know in advance where you will go. Make sure your pets will be welcome.
• Research what goes into each pet emergency kit. Some pets have different needs than others.

AKBA Companion Animal Recovery -
Cal Fires website -
Citizen Action Team Response -
Disaster Center | The Humane Society of the United States -
Emergency Preparedness Kits for Cats & Dogs -
Holiday Pet Safety Checklist -
Pet Finder (for lost pets) -
San Diego Humane Society’s fire animal rescues and Fire Relief Pet Assistance Program -
The AVMA Disaster Preparedness and Response Guide -
The Department of Animal Service -