May 7, 2024

It’s time to create a disaster plan for your pets

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your furry, feathery or scaly family members if you had to suddenly evacuate your home? Just like the human members of your family, pets can be deeply affected when disaster strikes. That’s why it’s critically important to create a disaster plan for your pets.

Tornadoes. Severe weather. Flash floods. Extended power outages. All of these extreme events can result in devastating destruction. You may already have a home disaster plan. (If you don’t, read this article!) But what about your pets? It’s a good idea to add a disaster plan for your pets to your overall family emergency plan. Follow this three-step strategy to keep your pets safe and healthy.

Step 1: Assemble an emergency kit

Include essential items. That means making sure you have your pets’ food, water, and medications; veterinary records (in case you need to seek medical care for them during an emergency); other documents (such as recent photos of your pets and proof of ownership); a first-aid kit; pet leashes and carriers or crates; and sanitation supplies (such as cat litter and litterbox). Also, remember to include comfort items such as their favorite toys or bedding, to help reduce stress.

Keep extra food and medicines on hand. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends including enough food for three to seven days; at least a two-week supply of any medications your pet needs; and enough bottled drinking water to last for at least seven days. Be sure to regularly rotate fresh food and medicine into your kit to avoid expired supplies.

Create a list of emergency contacts. Keep a list of emergency contacts, including your veterinarian (see next point), local animal shelters, and pet-friendly hotels, in your emergency kit. Include contact information for neighbors or friends who can assist with pet care if needed. (See Step 3.) One way to organize this information is by using an app. If you have a cat or dog, visit your app store to download the free Pet First Aid app by the American Red Cross. It offers sound advice on what to do in an emergency for both dogs and cats, including instructions for providing first aid for various types of injuries to your pets, access to your veterinarian’s contact information, locator tools to find nearby emergency veterinary hospitals and pet-friendly hotels and more.

Step 2: Develop an evacuation plan

Develop and practice your evacuation plan. Train your pets to come when called and to be comfortable with being handled and transported in carriers or crates. Regularly practice evacuating with your pets so they become familiar with the process. This will make it easier to get them out them quickly and safely during an emergency.

Do not leave your pets behind. If you are forced to evacuate your home, you may think you will be back in a few hours and your pets will be okay if left alone for that period. However, often people are not allowed to return to their homes, sometimes for weeks. Furthermore, pets can panic if left alone in an emergency and injure themselves trying to hide or escape. They also should not be left in extreme temperatures, either indoors or outside. Research places to stay (see Step 1) and identify friends who can help (see Step 3).

Step 3: Create a recovery care plan

Designate a caregiver. If you are injured or forced to stay in a shelter that does not allow animals, who will care for your pets? Identify a trusted friend, family member or neighbor who can take care of your pets if you are unable to do so during an emergency. Make sure they have access to your home (as needed), know where your pets are located, and have a copy of your evacuation plan.

Watch pet behaviors. Whomever is watching your pets should be sure to give them lots of attention. Observe their behaviors to make sure they are adapting to the situation. Call the vet if there are signs of illness or injury. And, obviously, give them lots of love — everyone will feel better!

Additional actions to enhance your pet disaster plan

To help your pet disaster plan succeed, take these additional steps to care for your pets both before and during an emergency.

Stay informed. Keep up with potential emergencies in your area, such as natural disasters or public safety alerts. Sign up for emergency notifications and follow local news and weather updates.

Create a secure environment. Bring your pets indoors, whenever possible, at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis, according to the ASPCA. Take precautions to prevent your pets from escaping, such as keeping doors and windows closed, securing fences, and blocking off unsafe areas.

Keep vaccinations up to date. Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations to protect them from diseases, especially in emergency situations, in which they may be exposed to unfamiliar environments.

ID your pets. Ensure your pets are wearing collars with up-to-date identification tags that include their name, your name, and contact information. Consider microchipping your pets as well, as a permanent form of identification.

Remain calm. During an emergency, it’s essential to remain calm and focused to ensure the safety of both yourself and your pets. Your pets will pick up on your emotions, so staying calm will help keep them calm as well.

Consider getting pet insurance. Pet insurance helps cover the costs of care for emergencies and illnesses. (Learn why people get pet insurance). Your Bradish agent can help you find the right plan to cover both expected and unexpected veterinary expenses.

Prepare now, for less stress later

The more prepared you are now, the less stressful it will be for both you and your pets in an emergency. Creating a disaster plan for your pets is an important way to ensure the well-being of these important members of your family. Stay safe!

by Kris A. Mainellis