September is National Preparedness Month, making it a good time to focus on organizing your home, business and pets to be ready to deal with emergencies and disasters. In organizing for disaster, pet owners – who consider their cats, dogs and birds as members of the family – need to be sure they’re prepared to keep their pets safe too.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are a number of organizing steps you can take during National Preparedness Month to protect your pets in case of a natural or man-made disaster.
ID your pet. Every dog or cat should have a collar and visible identification tag with up-to-date contact information. Having your pet micro-chipped can help reunite the two of you and is a great back-up in case a pet’s collar or tags are lost. Be sure to include your current mobile number on your pet’s tag and stored microchip information. If you’re forced to evacuate, you’ll still be reachable.
Create a disaster kit for your pet. In addition to the human members of your household, organizing a disaster kit for your pets should be an essential part of your National Preparedness Month planning. The contents should include:
- Food and water for each pet – enough to last five days. Dry food should be stored in airtight containers and be sure to have a manual can opener in your kit if your pet eats canned food. Your kit should be packed and ready at all times, should you need to evacuate your home or seek shelter during a hurricane.
- Medications and medical records.
- Garbage bags, litter box and cat litter.
- Pet carrier, leash, harness – rely on whatever you typically use for your pet so that they’re comfortable with it. Keep in mind that shelters and other locations to which you may have to evacuate may require that your pet be placed in a carrier or crate. Be sure it’s large enough for your pet to lie down and include bedding to keep your pet comfortable.
- Current photos and descriptions of your pets in case you become separated.
- Pet bed and toys, which can help to calm your pet in what’s likely to be a stressful situation.
- Written instructions for feeding, medication, medical conditions, behavioral issues and phone numbers for you and your veterinarian in case your pet needs to be boarded.
- Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach.
Identify a safe, pet-friendly place to stay before disaster strikes. Your local office of emergency management (click for: New York, New Jersey or Connecticut) can provide recommendations. Don’t ever assume that community shelters can accommodate pets, as some may not have the resources. If you are temporarily relocating to a hotel, these online resources can provide pet-friendly accommodation suggestions:
If you evacuate – take your pet. If it’s not safe for you to stay, it’s not safe for your pet either. Pets left behind can be injured, lost or killed. And evacuate early, giving you more options for traveling with and relocating your pet.
If you shelter in place, take the same care with your pets as with other family members. Identify a safe area in your home where you and your pets can stay together. Close off places where frightened animals may try to hide and move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products. Store your disaster kit in your designated safe area so that you have food, water and sanitation supplies readily available. Follow all instructions from your local emergency management office.
Identify a back-up caretaker for your pets in case you can’t get home. This is a good idea for major emergencies, as well as lesser ones that could delay your arrival at home. Make sure your back-up caretaker has a key to your home and is informed about feeding schedules, medications and your pet’s habits. If you use a pet setting service, ask if they are available to help in case of an emergency.
Finally, recognize that emergency situations can be very stressful for pets. Loud noises, unfamiliar smells and your own anxiety can be unsettling. Give them extra attention and be very patient. With a well organized pet disaster plan in place in addition to care and support from you, your pets will be able to weather a disaster as safely and securely as possible.