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Every time there’s a natural disaster, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or blizzard, there is the chance that our pets can be overlooked. As animal lovers, we have a responsibility to the dogs and cats in our care, so it’s important to figure them into any family disaster plans. How do we do that? Here are some tips:
- Keep your pets current on all their vaccinations. Pet shelters will require proof of rabies vaccinations, but if you think your pet may have to go to a shelter, bordetella (kennel cough) vaccines are a good idea as well.
- Have two copies of a current photo of each of your pets. On the back of the other, write the pet’s name, your contact information, and the contact information for your vet.
- Always make sure your pet is wearing a collar with ID tags, and keep a leash handy.
- Make sure you have a pet carrier for each animal you own. For dogs and cats, the carrier has to be large enough for the animal to sit, stand, lie down, and turn around.
- When planning your evacuation strategy, include your pet. This means adding time to stop at a pet shelter, or making sure you have emergency housing that allows animals.
- Make sure you have enough pet food, water, and cat litter, newspaper or puppy pads to last several days, even if you don’t have to evacuate.
- We strongly recommend micro-chip IDs for dogs and cats. These are tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, injected under your pet’s skin. They contain a code number that vet clinics and shelters can read with a scanner, which in turn links to national pet databases. If your pet is already chipped, be sure to keep the information current with the database.
- Animals can have adverse reactions to the pressure changes associated with tornados, or the lightning and thunder associated with storms. If your dog or cat reacts badly to weather, administer a sedative before things get bed. You can obtain safe drugs from your vet, but in a pinch, Benadryl works on dogs.
- Animals going to pet shelters must have:
- A collar with ID and rabies tags
- Copies of their immunization recordsCopies of their immunization records
- Identification on all belongings
- A carrier or cage
- A leash
- Enough food and any regular medications to last several days – planning for five days is a good idea.
- A copy of their photo, with their name, your name, their vet’s name, and contact information for all on the back. Also include any specific care instructions.
- A blanket or towel to keep in their crate or cage. If it smells like you, even better.
- Animal shelters fill up quickly – call ahead to make sure there’s room for your pet.
- Whether or not you’re evacuating, bring your pets inside well before a storm hits. Stay calm, and reassure them as much as possible.
- Even if you didn’t have to shelter your pet, walk them on a leash after any major storms. Scents and landmarks can change, and pets can become disoriented if that happens. As well, storm debris, downed power lines, and any reptiles that swam in with high water can be life-threatening to your animals.
- Some animals become defensive or aggressive after bad storms. Monitor your pets for several days after a disaster. Call your vet if you have any concerns.
- If you cannot find your pets after a disaster, contact your local animal control office to find out where lost pets may be recovered. Bring a picture of your pet with you when visiting shelters or vet clinics.
Losing a pet in a storm can be traumatic for everyone in the family. By planning ahead you can help to ensure that your pets stay safe during a natural disaster, and can be found afterwards.