Home » Preparing Your Pet for Natural Disasters: Animal Emergency Preparedness

Preparing Your Pet for Natural Disasters: Animal Emergency Preparedness

by Zeeshan Khan

As a devoted pet owner, keeping your animals safe should be a top priority. Natural disasters can strike anytime, anywhere – being prepared to evacuate or shelter in place with pets takes some advance planning. Here are tips for pet emergency preparedness when facing risks like floods, fires, storms, and other crises.

Have a Plan in Place

Waiting until an emergency strike is too late to figure out what to do with pets. That’s why it’s crucial to develop an emergency action plan ahead of time. Identify evacuation routes and shelter locations that allow pets. Also decide which family member is responsible for grabbing pets if you get separated. Share copies of your plan with everyone in the household and keep it someplace accessible like on the fridge. Test your evacuation plan annually – the practice run helps work out any kinks.

Prepare a Go-Bag for Pets

A pet go-bag contains essential items your animals will need during an emergency. Having it ready to grab and go can greatly simplify evacuation. Recommended contents include food/water, medications/supplements, vet records, leashes/crates/carriers, litterbox and litter, and comfort items like toys or bedding. A sticker with pet photos and your contact info is also useful for reuniting if separated. Check go-bags every 6 months and refresh perishable contents.

Have Pet-Friendly Shelter Options

Many public shelters don’t allow pets, so waiting until an emergency to find accommodation can be problematic. Research lodging and shelters in your area that accept pets, including contact info and policies. Identify a few options at varying distances, including some outside your immediate area in case local shelters fill up. Ask trusted friends or relatives if they can house you and your pets in a crisis – even better if they’re in a different region.

Get Pets Microchipped

Collars and ID tags can get lost during disasters, so microchipping pets provides permanent identification. The rice-sized chips are implanted under your pet’s skin and contain registration information. Animal shelters and vets nationwide scan for these chips to reunite lost pets. Maintain an up-to-date microchip registration. Consider proactively registering your pet with lost/found sites like Pet FBI.

Secure Pet First Aid Supplies

Veterinary care may not be readily available during emergencies and disasters. Having pet first aid supplies on hand allows you to treat minor injuries and stabilize pets until you can get professional help. Recommended items include gauze, adhesive tape, cotton swabs, antibiotic ointment, scissors, tweezers, latex gloves, sterile lubricant, activated charcoal, and a first aid reference guide. Rotate perishable supplies to keep them fresh.

Gather Important Documents

If forced to evacuate quickly, you want to make sure you don’t leave without critical pet documents. Have copies of vaccination certificates, medical records, registration information, adoption papers, microchip data, prescriptions, and proof of ownership ready to go in your emergency kit. Digitized copies on a USB drive can also be handy in case paper copies are damaged or lost.

Consider Your Evacuation Transportation Situation

Do you have adequate room in your vehicle to transport pets if ordered to evacuate? Can you stick crates in your car in advance, so they are ready to load animals? Do you need pet-friendly taxi or rideshare services? If you don’t own a personal vehicle, research alternatives like buses, trams and paratransit vehicles that allow animals in an emergency. Know your options before a crisis.

Practice the Skills Your Pet Will Need

The rush and chaos of an evacuation will be stressful for pets. Practicing important skills ahead of time reduces panic. Train pets to reliably come when called, walk calmly on a leash, and enter/exit crates and carriers in an orderly fashion. If you have dogs, practice loading them in your car. Desensitize anxious pets to being handled, wearing muzzles if necessary. Roleplay remained calm during loud noises and commotion.

Understand Your Pets’ Behavioral Stress Signals

Animals display subtle signs of stress and fear long before panic and aggression happen. Learn your pets’ signals like whining, licking lips, yawning, panting, and tension. Watch for these early warnings during practice drills and evacuations so you can respond quickly with reassurance. Carrying treats can help motivate and reward anxious pets. Staying attuned helps prevent panic-induced bites and escapes.

Make Temporary Containment Provisions

You may need to confine nervous pets during transit or in unfamiliar disaster housing. Carry folding exercise pens and stakes to quickly create temporary containment areas. Bring puppy pads, pee pads, and litter supplies if you’ll need to handle potty needs in nontraditional settings. Having tools and tactics to safely contain animals reduces risks to people and pets.

Don’t Forget Horses and Livestock!

If you have horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, or other farm animals, include them in emergency preparedness too. Identify alternate locations like stables, fairgrounds, and livestock shelters willing to board your animals in an emergency evacuation. Ensure you have adequate trailers, handlers, and supplies to transport large animals.

Practice loading horses and livestock, so the process goes smoothly under stress. Microchip large animals too for recovery assistance if they get lost. Keep copies of veterinary records, proof of ownership, and identification photos available to travel with your animals. Homesteading farms should also plan for offsite relocation of livestock while sheltering-in-place through disasters. With some additional considerations, you can ensure your horses, cows, pigs, and poultry stay safe too.

Final words

In addition to preparing supplies and transportation, mentally brace yourself to care for pets in challenging evacuation conditions. Accept they may vocalize, have accidents, or show stress. Staying calm and keeping their needs tended will get everyone through. With planning and practice, you and your pets can weather disasters as safely as possible.

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