Pets and Disaster: Are you Pet-Prepared?

Make sure you're prepared to care for your pet when disaster strikes.

No matter where you live, disaster can happen to you.  In many cases, people can rely on emergency services for themselves, but their pets may not be so lucky.  People have had to abandon their pets to get help for themselves.  People have been stuck without food or water for their pets.  People have had to entrust their pets with others.  Want to create a better chance for your pet?  Read on:

What is the nature of your emergency?

Do you know what kind of emergencies you’re likely to face, how to respond, and how your community responds?  If you live in a flood zone, do you know the conditions that can put your home at high risk?  Are you aware of common things that can start a fire in a home?  Are you living in an area where tornadoes are common? Do you have emergency packs for everyone in the house and check them regularly?

Disaster-specific situations

Some situations might require specialized equipment for your pet.  

  • If you’re in a flood zone, consider packing a lifejacket or PFD for your pet.  If your pet can’t be fitted with one, try to find a floating container that your pet can be placed in.  
  • If you are in an area where it can get very hot or cold, you might want to include a cooling or insulated coat for your pet or covering for its crate/cage.  
  • More and more fire departments are purchasing or having donated pet oxygen masks; do you know if your emergency responders have them and know how to deploy them?

What does your pet emergency pack look like?

Most of the time, in any emergency, you need the same things:

  • Food
  • Clean water
  • Blankets/shelter
  • Required medication
  • Copies of medical records
  • Anti-parasite treatment
  • First-aid supplies
  • Muzzle or restraint system
  • Identification, including current photos and descriptions and LOST posters.
  • Contact information for friends, veterinarian, kennel, and any other party that has agreed to help your pet in the case of an emergency
  • Collar/harness/leash/restraint system
  • Care instructions
  • Cage/crate/tank, preferably of something that can stand a few hard knocks.  (can be used to store your pet’s emergency supplies)

You should have enough food and water for your pet for a week.  If you can’t access pet food, do you know what is safe to feed your pet in the interim?  Dogs can survive on a great many plant and animal foods, while cats and ferrets require meat.  There are some things that people can eat that animals can’t, and so on.  

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Your Resources

Some communities, and even some states, have pet emergency responders whose purpose is to set up safe spaces for pets and people with pets.  Many of them are known as DARTs (Disaster Animal Response Team).  Sometimes these organizations will have courses available on pet emergency packs and preparation for an emergency or disaster.  They may also be able to train you how to form your own emergency pet response team.

Pet first aid courses are becoming increasingly available and are as comprehensive as a basic human first aid course.  Good first aid courses also go over pet behavior and restraint systems.  You may also be able to obtain a pet-specific first-aid kit from the same source.

Make a list of possible resources for you and your pet around your neighborhood and municipality.  

Your Plan

You need a plan to escape a disaster with your pet.  Having shelter set up ahead of time, people who you know you can leave your pet with if necessary, and a predetermined route is crucial to ensuring your pet’s safety in difficult times.  It may even be a good idea to store emergency packs with these people as well as having them with you to ensure that you will have supplies in the event of evacuation from your home neighborhood.  When in doubt, make your escape from a disaster-stricken area your priority. 

Julie MacTire is a writer and educator devoted to the world of dogs. She also writes a blog (shibainus.ca) about her adventures with her Shiba Inu, Tierce, and is a supporter of many pet welfare organizations.

References & Resources

Grooming, Stress-Free

Scaredy Cut is the gentle clipper designed for grooming sensitive pets.
Learn More

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