Wildfires, Floods, Tornados, Mudflows, Cold Waves, Hurricanes, Blizzards, Tsunami, Cyclone, Landslide, Earthquakes, Volcano, and Avalanche, and that’s just for starters. We can add man-made catastrophes to the list, like fires, terrorist threats, explosions, gas leaks, wars, chemical spills, etc.
No matter what the odds are of an occurrence, when any disaster strikes, we have to evacuate and our four-legged companions, standing without a voice, more often than not are left behind to agonize, suffer and go it alone.
The wonderful workers and volunteers who sacrifice themselves to help during these tragedies will protect and house dogs in temporary shelters as far as they can.
Whether the poor dog has been rescued or is running free; it is guaranteed that it is terrified and running around in a panicked state.
The lucky ones who do get rescued are still helpless, traumatized, sick, ravenous, and often seriously wounded, not to mention missing their family. The unlucky ones are faced with fending for themselves for days or weeks until rescued, or even killed. Pet dogs are ill equipped with the necessary skills to survive the elements and fend off competitors for what limited food and drink might be available in the aftermath of a calamity.
Therefore, it is your obligation right now to put in the time to plan for the welfare, safety and security of your dog. Remember: it isn’t IF, it is WHEN disaster strikes and with the increase in natural catastrophes, it is very possible that it is becoming more probable that you may face the need to evacuate at some point in your life.
Whether you are forced to stand your ground at home or make haste to parts unknown, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So let us look at some disaster preparedness ideas that will ensure you and your dogs get through this disaster together.
Human nature dictates that if you do not put the time and thought into this now to ready yourself, when the emergency does strike you will automatically go into fear mode, and people in fear mode rarely make correct decisions.
First off, and of paramount importance in canine disaster preparedness, is to make sure your dog is equipped with appropriate identification (common sense says that disaster or not, every dog should be wearing a tag or be microchipped, preferably both).
During an evacuation, things are in a high state of mass confusion, resulting in anxious, pressured and distraught reactions. Under those circumstances, it is very easy to lose track of your dog so the ID tag must reflect your up-to-date contact information, including a cell phone number and an address or other location where you can be reached.
An emergency kit (or two) needs to be ready (one for you and your family, and one for your dog, or a combination thereof) for a quick exit – if you must leave hastily, it is a simple matter to grab the emergency kits and the leash and you are out the door.
Your pet’s kit should contain the following:
- Collapsible containers for food and water
- Spare collar (with the same ID tag), leash or harness, including rabies tag
- Poop bags
- First aid kit for you, your family and the dog (a quick online search will provide the necessary contents)
- Any medications your dog is currently taking, and, depending on temperament, something to calm him/her down would not be out of order
- Enough food and potable water for a minimum of three days, preferably four
- The name, address and phone number of your Veterinarian along with a prepared list of your dog’s vaccinations and medical history
- A couple of names of “In the Event of an Emergency” contacts – don’t forget cell numbers
- Proof of ownership – pictures of your dog along with pictures of the whole family with the dog, as well as pictures of the “In the Event of Emergency” people with the dog
- A sturdy crate. – this one item is invaluable, for ease of transport. Plus…
- It may well happen that you are forced to put your dog into a co-location shelter (a shelter that is matched up with a human evacuation shelter). This will give you the comfort of knowing that your dog is safe and secure in his/her crate with a watchful eye being kept on their safekeeping.*
As part of your preparedness plan, you need to check with your local Red Cross chapter or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) office to locate and confirm where you and your dog will stay (also try for a in-case back-up shelter). Search for any pet-friendly hotels and make contact with the management/owners to check procedures in case of an evacuation (you might even be able to put down an indefinite deposit to ensure a place). But, depending on circumstances, you may not be able to stay together and therefore, you need to find an alternative safe haven for your dog, i.e. boarding kennel, co-location shelter, friends, family, etc. An online search will provide you with your local emergency-management office number for both people and animal shelter-related information.
If you do not have to evacuate, prepare yourself for in-home shelter. The ten rules above are still applicable (food, water, etc.) but this time, instead of finding a safe place away from home, prepare a strategic plan for your shelter-in-place scenario. Know in advance where that safe place is and what you are going to do when you lose power or fresh water.
PLEASE – DO NOT TREAT THE FOLLOWING LIGHTLY
YOUR PETS DESERVE EVERY BIT OF COMPASSION, THE SAME AS ANY OTHER MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY
And finally: what of the tragic scenario that you might not be able to take you pet with you? Obviously this is only in extreme circumstance. FEMA specifically advises: IN THE EVENT OF EVACUATION, BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS! There certainly is enough disaster history to substantiate the claim that pets generally do not survive on their own.
But if you must leave your pet, do not do so without making sure that:
- You have advised a person in authority that there is a pet or pets in your home
- You have turned the dog loose in a safe place in the home
- You have constructed a BIG SIGN easily visible from the street for rescue workers that:
- explains what pet or pets are running loose in the home
- the name and number of your Veterinarian
- your name and personal cell number
- you have left ample (4 days) of water and food
PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act of 2006
On a Federal, State or Local level, prior to 2006 there were no provisions in place for the safe evacuation of pets in the event of a disaster.
In 2006, Congress passed HR 2858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, and the then-President George W. Bush signed the Pets ACT into law.
The PETS Act requires that all state and local agencies must include pets in their evacuation plans to receive FEMA funding. The disregard to include pets and service animals will disqualify some areas from some FEMA funding. This incentive has driven more local agencies to include in the creation of plans animals in their disaster planning.
Additional information on the PETS Act and emergency preparation for animals can be found at the FEMA and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) websites or you can contact your local Humane Society to acquire emergency information/resources for pet owners.
*Obviously, during an emergency evacuation is not the time to introduce the crate to your dog. Take the time now to introduce the crate to sparky, this way when the time comes, no time is lost in getting him in the crate, or adding to an already upset and panicked state.
There are numerous places on this site to teach your dog a simple and force free method of crate training.
No one has a crystal ball (not one that works, anyway) and you cannot foresee or prevent disasters from occurring, but you can prepare for them.