No disaster plan is complete until you also have a plan for your household pets. We have all heard stories about pets being left behind during evacuation or of people who could not leave because they did not have a plan for their pets. Having a plan in place and a GO bag packed is the first step to protecting your four-legged loved ones.
Our family has evacuated with pets. A wildfire left us in a hotel room with two huge labs, a turtle, and a gecko. It was a little crazy…but we were prepared with everything we needed to ride it out. Not having to worry about how to get all our beloved animals taken care of took a huge weight off our shoulders.
Just like for humans, your pet should have the things that they need to ride out at least 72 hours if you need to be away from your home. In addition to that, you also need to make a plan for how to get them out of a dangerous area, where you can take them if you are unable to keep them with you, and how to keep them their healthiest and happiest during a time when your life feels out of control.
I’m Evacuating….What about my Pets?
Most emergency shelters for humans do not take in pets, with the exception of service animals. This can be a shock to people, and can leave them with no plan for their animal. Before you need to get out, make sure you know where the potential shelters are for your pets. If you have unusual pets, outside of cats and dogs, this can be even more challenging. Now is a great time to start thinking about a plan.
- Contact hotels outside of your local area to find out if they accept pets. Start a list of “pet-friendly” locations. When you call, be sure to ask if their pet policy can be waived in the event of an emergency. Keep the list of these options in your GO bag.
- Make a list of Veterinarians or boarding facilities that can help to shelter pets. Many will take pets in an emergency for boarding. On this list, be sure to include the facilities 24-hour phone numbers, since emergencies often happen outside of business hours. Make sure to include ones outside of your local area.
- Ask friends and relatives ahead of time if they would be willing to take your pets. Include them on the list if they are willing to help, as well as all of their contact information.
- Include area animal shelters that provide short-term emergency or foster care.
When you call these places, be sure to ask about any unusual or exotic pets that you may have. Some facilities will not take exotic pets, so you may have to search a bit more to find what you need.
Pack a GO bag
I recommend packing pet items in a separate bag, so that you can leave items with your pet in the case that you need to leave them in the care of someone else. All paperwork and identifying information should be copied and added to your bag as well, so that you can be reunited with your pets much more easily. The following items are essential for your pet’s GO bag:
- Your Pet’s Medical Needs: Include any medications your pet takes daily, medications for pain or allergies that your pet may need in case of a problem, a copy of the pets medical records, and any special information on medical conditions that may help someone else care for your pet. Store these in a waterproof bag or container.
- First Aid Kit: Throw a simple first aid kit in the bag as well, so that you (or someone else) can deal with any injuries or illnesses while away from home. Remember that you may not have immediate access to veterinary care…so a little extra preparedness here is warranted.
- Nutritional Needs: Your pet will need food, drinkable water, any supplements, and food and water dishes. Pack each day’s food ration in a zip-top bag for easy feeding.
- Waste Needs: Litter pans and litter are very important for cats, so be sure to have them available. Stores may not be open to stock up on these items. For dogs, waste pick up bags are great, but remember that a regular bag (or your leftover grocery store plastic bags) work just great and can be used for other purposes as well. Items that can serve double duty are always a plus!
- Leashes, Collars, and Carriers: Sturdy leashes, appropriate carriers, and anything you need to make sure your pet is safely controlled and able to stay near you are very important to pack. Pets panic and may try to run, so be sure you can control or contain them in a situation that may make them nervous.
- A Note for a Caregiver: Even if you don’t think you will have to take your pet to someone else to care for, sit down now and make a note to anyone who might need to care for your pet. This note should include anything they may need to know: behavioral issues, routines, or problems that your pet may experience.
- A Current Picture of your Pet WITH you: Having a picture of yourself with your pet can serve you in many situations. If your pet escapes and runs off, you will need it when looking for them. If your pet is put into a shelter, you may speed the process of reuniting with them by having this simple picture. Make several copies and put them in both of your GO bags.
Emergencies in the Home
It’s worth mentioning here that emergencies can also happen to YOU that can negatively affect your pets. If you live alone, this can be especially true. Now is a great time to think about that as well. A simple note in your wallet, letting people know that if you are incapacitated someone may need to go help your pets, can speed along the process of getting help to them if you can’t be there. You can also place stickers in your windows so that, in the event of a problem, rescuers know about pets in the home. These seem like simple steps, but they can make a big impact on your pet.
Being prepared for any situation means that you can stay calm and handle whatever comes your way. Making sure your pets are also prepared can be the difference between life and death for them. Stay aware, and make sure if you need to get out, EVERYONE gets out.