According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 58.9 % of all US households own animals. Animals play primary roles and are apart of our families. The care of animals in disasters is important to the care of humans.
Plans that incorporate animals are important to emergency management officials because many rescue workers will encounter animals while dealing with the disaster.
Regardless of the type of disaster that may strike, animals, especially dogs, will often hear and feel them before humans do, as is true with thunderstorms. Some horses can run frantically around in their pasture, due to an internal instinct that something is wrong. Animals will show different signs of stress through anxiousness, signs of unusual aggressive behavior, hiding, or vocalizing. Pets that rely on olfactory sensors may become disoriented. With unfamiliar sounds, smells and sights that follow a disaster, pets can easily become confused and get lost. In addition pets that we may know well to be gregarious in nature might not become aggressive, they may become extremely timid and go into hiding. Others may display signs of aggression and can bite or scratch. Behavioral techniques to become acquainted with such as not cornering a dog without taking time and being gentle, or how to separate dogs fighting or how to handle an injured or ill animal when it is calm, are all important pieces of our knowledge bank that will assist us in becoming a unified well trained emergency rescue team within our own communities.
As we know already, in the event of an emergency, a well-practiced disaster program will not only reduce stress but will also save precious tie and lives. The Marin Humane Society has created a list of recommendations to help keep you and your animals safe during a disaster.
1: Identify Your Pet
Keep your pet’s license current and make sure that a collar and identification tags are worn at all times. Keep a spare collar and ID tag on hand. Consider having a safe, permanent microchip implanted in your pet; this ID cannot be lost of removed.
2: Crate Train Your Pet
Train your cat and dog to enter their carriers at your command. DO this by putting your pet’s favorite treat in his or her carrier and sounding a bell at the same time. Repeat this process every day, until your pet comes running at the sound of the bell. Continue this routine often enough to keep it fresh in your pet’s mind. This training will be extremely helpful in locating a frightened animal. Ensure that your pet feels comfortable when handled.
Because these items may move and/or break during a disaster, securing them on low stands or tables will be helpful. Also, tighten the latch on your birdcage so that the door cannot be shaken open easily.
3: Develop a Neighborhood Plan
Get to know your neighbors and their pets. Keep on updated list of their home and work numbers (update every 6 months) and select a neighborhood coordinator who will be ready to assist should a disaster occur when you are not home. It’s best that this person spends a lot of time at home or works within walking distance of the neighborhood. Select one or two back-up coordinators in case the primary person in unavailable.
4: If Your Pet Becomes Lost
- Immediately call or visit the nearest animal shelter to report your pet missing.
- When deemed safe, return to your neighborhood to post or distribute lost pet posters, or drop flyers in mailboxes, which include your name, home address and phone number (posters available at MHS or at www.MarinHumaneSociety.org).
- Continue to search your area for your missing pet – a frightened animal can stay hidden for days.
- Set up a feeding station and place clothes with your scent nearby.
- Call neighbors or service workers, such as mail carriers, police, firefighters, and/or PG&E workers for leads.
5: If You Find a Pet
Notify the local animal shelter as soon as possible and be prepared to give a full description of the animal (i.e. breed, color, sex) and the location. Remember that sick and/or injured animals can become unpredictable from the stress of an injury and should be handled by professionals familiar with proper handling techniques.
6: in Case of an Evacuation
Red Cross shelters do not accept pets. Prepare a list of back-up arrangements, such as homes of friends and family, hotels that allow pets, boarding facilities, vet hospitals, and/or animal shelters. It is not recommended that you leave your pet behind when evacuating, but if you must, follow these guidelines to help ensure your pet’s safety.
- Post a highly visible sign in a window to let rescue workers know how many pets were left behind.
- Leave plenty of water in a large, open container that cannot be tipped over.
- Leave plenty of food in timed feeders (check local pet stores). These will prevent your pet from eating a week’s worth of food in one day.
- Do not tie or cage your pet, as the chances for survival are greater if he or she can escape easily.
7: Prepare a First-Aid Kit That Includes:
- Large and small bandages
- Cotton swabs
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting or clean deep wounds)
- Elastic tape
- Eye wash (saline)
Ear cleaning solution (ChlorhexiDerm, Epi-otic)
K-Y Jelly (Water soluble)
Any special medications your pet needs
8: Pet Disaster Kit
A prepared disaster kit, kept in a safe and easily accessible place, will enable you to provide immediate care to your animal who is either on a leash or in a carrier will be more welcome wherever you go.
- Sturdy crate and/or carrier
- Backpack or bag to place items
- Identification tag/collar for pets
- Food/Water (7-day supply per pet)
- Non-spill bowls
- Litter box and litter
- Any special medications
- Manual can opener and plastic lid
- Copy of your pet’s current vaccination history
- Recent photos of you with pet(s)
- Pet First-Aid book
- Poop bags
- Twist ties
- Tie down or tarp
- Treats and treat bag
- Peanut butter