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Credit: Wendy (twodolla on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Emergency Preparedness Includes Your Pets

I thought I was prepared for a disaster since my family has rehearsed an escape plan (in case of fire) and we change the batteries in our alarms every year. I was wrong.

Cats in the cageMike Lewis on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

For my cats, I only have small carriers and I've never portioned out an emergency supply of food, medication, or litter for them.

I have a sticker from the fire department on my front door which indicates the number of pets I own and says "please rescue them" in case of an emergency.

But in all fairness, pet owners would be wise to take their pets with them when they evacuate. Some people have risked their lives going back to their homes to rescue their animals later on.

Animals left behind in any disaster are often scared, lost, go hungry, and are never reunited with their owners. It's tragic.

Microchipping your pet(s) will definitely help emergency personnel bring your pets back to you, but the best prevention is to keep your entire family together. And for every pet owner I know, family includes pets.

This Video by Dr. Heather Case Opened My Eyes

Dr. Case is the Director of the Scientific Activities Division at the American Veterinary Medical Association

Pet Carriers and a Disaster Preparedness Kit

Carriers often need to serve as temporary housing during and after an evacuation. So it's crucial you have one that is large enough to hold a makeshift litter box for cats.

Zellie's feeding cageThe Last Cookie (cabeel on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

When putting together your disaster preparedness kit, Dr. Case recommends the following items be included:

  1. Enough pet food for one week
  2. Enough water for one week
  3. Medication your pet(s) require with a current prescription
  4. Health/medical records
  5. A recent photo of your pet
  6. A list of contacts and phone numbers which includes pet-friendly hotels, friends, relatives, and shelters
  7. Contact information for a veterinarian in the evacuation area
  8. Proper visible identification attached to your pet when you evacuate - or shortly after leaving a dangerous area (even if your pet is microchipped).

Animal ID 13236782 Species Dog Breed Retriever, Golden/Mix Sex Female Date Found 6/1/2011Joplin Tornado Lost and Found Pets on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The ID tag (which could be made from a luggage tag) should include: your name and phone number and the name and phone number of a friend/family member who resides outside of the evacuation area.

This type of visible identification is something I would recommend pet owners fill out beforehand and keep in their emergency preparedness kit. Since there is personal information on it (and a pet could lose or chew it off), I'd attach it to my pet(s) when it is safe to do so in the event of an evacuation.

People who work to reunite pets with families might be short on supplies themselves (including batteries for microchip readers) or they may not have enough of them on hand. By having your pet clearly identified can bring him or her back to you sooner rather than later.

Animals Help Humans Cope and Rebuild

An open access 2014 Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) article titled No Pet or Their Person Left Behind: Increasing the Disaster Resilience of Vulnerable Groups through Animal Attachment, Activities and Networks highlights the following reasons why pets are beneficial to the recovery of humans and communities both during and following a disaster:

Pets in New Orleansaekpani on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

When animal loss occurs alongside a traumatic event such as a disaster, the impact can be overwhelming. In many societies, pets and farm animals are crucial to a community's ability to rebuild following a disaster.

A cautionary note is that any type of "forced abandonment of pets" would compound feelings of guilt for the person who will constantly be worrying and wondering about their pet(s) who had to be left behind. 

Missouri Flood ReliefPetty Officer 3rd Class Jaclyn Young (Coast Guard News on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

What's more, should a pet perish in the disaster, there is less emotional support for that pet owner/ family since (in many societies) pet loss isn't considered as significant as human loss.

Pets help children cope, develop life skills, and bounce back from disasters. In a 2007 study by Ross et al., kids regard their pets as important as a sibling, best friend, or confidante. Pets instill a sense of comfort and protection. 

The article concluded that "research and planning should therefore aspire to enable and motivate maximum disaster resilience for all members of the community - humans and nonhuman animals alike; pets and their people."

Dog Reunited with Family After Tornado

by WISH-TV

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