Hurricane Sandy is currently making its way up the east coast and meteorologists predict that Boston will be seeing the impact today and throughout the early part of this week. The news and other safety advisory sources tell us to stock up on water and canned goods, flashlights and batteries, blankets and sweaters. But how do we prepare to leave our homes—or stay in them safely—with equal regard to our pets’ safety?
Here are the recommended steps to ensure safety for your whole family—pets included.
Rule number one: If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pet. Do not expect to be able to leave your home—even for a short time—and return for your pet. Natural disaster happens fast! While it may look “fine” outside, It may not be, and you may be confined to whatever location you have departed to. Always take your pet with you where ever you need to go!
Rule number two: Evacuate early. Do not “wait it out.” Evacuations are for everyone’s safety. If the situation requires you to leave you home, be proactive. Leaving before conditions become stressful and/or dangerous for you and your pet helps get everyone through the situation with less trauma and panic.
Rule number three: Plan and plan early. Think through what you need, where you need to go, and with whom you need to communicate about what’s happening. The faster and more thoroughly you develop a plan, the easier it will be to get you and your pet through the emergency.
ID for your pets: make sure that your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and visible at all times. Put your cell phone and a friend’s number on your pet's tag. You can make an additional temporary tag with information that may not be on your pet’s primary tag by cutting a tag-sized piece of cardboard, writing the information on it, and wrapping it with clear tape. Additionally, microchipping your pet can be indispensible in emergency situations when pets and owners are separated. If your pet is not microchipped, consider scheduling an appointment to do so for the future. Your Veterinarian—or any local Veterinarian—or a local shelter can do this for you. This is a critical tool for reuniting separated pets and owners.
Pet evacuation supplies: Stock up and pack away. Collect non-perishables ahead of time and have everything ready to go in a “GO” bag that you can access at a moment's notice. Dry pet food should be stored in air-tight containers and refreshed every six months. Keep a list of necessary items in the bag to refer to along with any medications needed. If you live in a high risk area, have this bag ready and stored in the car in advance. If you are able to stay home, keep these items in a place that is water- and wind-proof. This bag should include:
Food and water for five days for each pet. Bring extra water for rinsing the bowls and cleaning—cleaning water can be reused.
Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop, and garbage bags to collect all pets' waste.
Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that they can not escape. Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. It is helpful—but not critical—to have some form of bedding, spray cleaner, paper towels, trash bags, feed bowls, and toys.
Current photo and description of your pet and you with your pet to help others identify them in the event of a separation.
A list of your pet’s medications, vaccine history, medical conditions, feeding information, any behavior issues, and name/number of your Veterinarian.
If a shelter or hotel is not feasible, consider staying with a friend or relative or have your pet boarded with a Veterinarian or at a nearby kennel.
If you choose to stay home with your pets or are unable to evacuate, stay in a safe location. A space that is free of small hiding places or dangerous substances or equipment will alleviate any additional conflicts. A comfortable and safe space is the best place to be for both of you. Make sure to bring the “GO” bag items you’ve prepared.
Listen to the radio for condition updates—do NOT go outside to see for yourself. Stay inside and don’t allow your pet outside the safe room/area of your home. You do not know the extent of impact the disaster conditions have caused.
Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. Disaster of any kind can be disorienting and stressful. It is very important to have control of your pet and to restrict any opportunity for more chaos or damage.
Be patient with your pets after the disaster has passed. Keep them close to you while you are cleaning up and getting your home back to normal. You both will be shaken from the experience, so it is important to take things one at a time to reduce shock and feel in control.
Emergencies and disasters have affected many of us around the country this past year. This past week, the Midwest has had string of tornadoes. This past summer, in our neck of the woods, western MA also experienced tornadoes. As Massachusetts residents, we are used to unpredictable and bad weather.
March 9th 2012: Reunited with his beloved dog, Alabama tornado victim Greg Cook cries with joy. Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.
However, whether you have one pet or a household full of pets, it is important to be prepared for any emergency. We asked Dr. Amy Shroff, Practice Owner of VESCONE and Chair of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association’s Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee to give us some tips on how to best manage a disaster or emergency with pets.
Here is a checklist of things you should consider before an emergency strikes.
- What is your evacuation plan for your family and pets?
- Do you have a pet first aid kit?
- Where can you stay for emergency or temporary housing?
- Do you know where your nearest 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital like VESCONE is located?
- Do you have 3 days’ worth of food, medication, bedding and supplies for your pet ready in the event you need to leave your home quickly?
- In the event something should happen to you and/or you are away from your pet, do you have an emergency contact who also knows your pet and his or her needs?
The better prepared you are, the better other aid organizations like the Red Cross or SMART (State of MA Animal Response Team) can help should you need it.
We also recommend that pet owners have:
- pet insurance
- be up to date on all of their pet’s vaccinations--including rabies
- have an accurately registered microchip
- have name and address tags on their pets collar
- carry a Pet ID info card on you at all times
A Pet ID card is a handy small card you can keep in your wallet or glove compartment that contains all of your pet’s emergency contact info, rabies back dates, and veterinary information all in one place.
VESCONE offers these cards at our Pet First Aid classes. Please see our website for more information about our First Aid Classes for Pet Owners http://www.vescone.com/for-pet-owners/first-aid-classes/.
For more information about emergency and disaster preparedness, please visit these websites: