Saving Animals from Disaster

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Excerpts from RESCUED: Saving Animals from Disaster (New World Library), Chapter 19, "Preparing Pets and Farm Animals for Disaster and Evacuation", Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

Preparing Pets for Emergency: Be Ready. Be Safe. Be Fast.

     RESCUED: Saving Animals from Disaster by Allen and Linda Anderson is designed to keep a national conversation going on how to strengthen animal rescue and replace outdated, agrarian policies regarding animals with more effective lifesaving procedures. Among other vital pieces of information are:

  • The five crucial questions everyone with a pet must ask to assess if they are prepared for disaster
  • What essential elements are needed in a pet preparedness kit for an owner to evacuate safely and quickly in the event of a house fire, neighborhood chemical spill, terrorism threat, evacuation order, or natural disaster such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes
  • How to have a family emergency disaster plan that includes pets
  • What should be in your car or a safe deposit box that could save lives
  • What questions to ask of local, state, and national emergency planning committees, fire and police departments, and legislators to make sure you have support for pet evacuation and sheltering in disasters
  • What will get you into a shelter or rescue vehicle and why you and your pet could be turned away.

     A great idea is to have a Rescue Alert sticker on the front door of your house. You can get this for free at the ASPCA website. It alerts emergency personnel that there are animals in the house and tells the number and types. The Oregon Humane Society also offers a free pet Rescue Alert sticker on its website. Code 3 Associates has a downloadable Emergency Release Form, which allows anyone who needs to offer emergency medical care to your pet to have permission to do so. Fill it out ahead of time so you donít have to try to remember all the information when you are in a panic.

A Pet Disaster Supplies Kit

     If you are away from your home for a day, a week, or longer (some people from the Gulf Coast had not returned more than six months after Hurricane Katrina), you will need supplies for your pets. On its website the HSUS, working with the American Red Cross, recommends that your pet disaster supplies kit should include:

  • Medications, a first-aid kit, and medical records (stored in a waterproof container)
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals canít escape
  • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost
  • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable
  • None of these preparations is hard to accomplish. Creating your pet disaster supplies kit is a one-time task, and then it will be ready for use in the months and years ahead.

Use the Warning Time Well

     If you are lucky enough to be warned ahead of time that a disaster is approaching, you can better prepare to protect your pets. You can call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements and make reservations at pet-friendly hotels. (Remember, many hotels waive their no-pets policy in a disaster evacuation.) With warning time, you can check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready. Keep all pets in the house so that you wonít have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.

     Be sure all dogs and cats are wearing securely fastened collars and have up-to-date identification. Also, attach the phone number and address of the place where you will evacuate or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your petís ID tag, adding the temporary information with an indelible pen.

     Keep informed about where pet-friendly evacuation shelters will be located in your area. In case you canít get into a pet-friendly hotel, a pet shelter next to a people shelter may be your last resort. Many of these animal shelters will require that you bring your own crates, pet food, supplies, medications, and veterinarian records showing vaccinations. Of course, there will probably be exceptions made for people who had to flee hurriedly. But being able to get into the relatively few spaces that would be available in one of these shelters is another good reason to have a pet disaster kit in your car.


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