If there’s one thing we’ve learned from last year’s catastrophic hurricane season — and it’s cast of characters Harvey, Irma and Maria — it’s that every one of us is potentially at risk of facing a natural disaster.
According to FEMA, hurricanes and wildfires collectively affected more 47 million people in the United States, and, obviously, an untold number of pets.
As meteorologists ready themselves for this year’s crop of storms, it’s just smart to ready your own emergency plan with your animal’s safety in mind.
“In my line of work, I have seen far too many animals separated from their families during natural disasters – a tragedy that in many cases can be prevented,” says Dr. Dick Green, senior director of ASPCA Disaster Response. “In advance of hurricane season, the ASPCA strongly encourages pet owners to develop emergency plans for their pets before disaster strikes, and in the event of an emergency situation, to bring their pets with them if they are forced to evacuate.”
Follow these tips from the ASPCA, so that you and your pet are prepared in an emergency.
1. Make sure your pet is easy to identify.
The safety of your pet could depend on it. All pets should wear ID tags with your most up-to-date contact information (address and phone number are key). An even more permanent form of identification is micro-chipping, which ensures your information is always with your pet should his or her collar ever fall off during a storm.
2. Create a portable pet emergency kit.
Compile a kit of all the things you could potentially need if you’re forced to evacuate and make sure everyone in your family knows where it is. The ASPCA recommends including 3-7 days worth of pet food, at least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet, pet-feeding dishes or bowls, comfort items, photocopies or a USB drive of medical records, a two-week supply of any medicine your pet may need (make sure it has not expired). To see what other items could come in handy, click here.
3. Select a designated pet caregiver.
If you are evacuated during a hurricane situation, do you have a family friend or relative outside the evacuation zone who can care for your pet if needed? Make that person your designated caregiver and discuss how you’ll work together to get your pet to safety before a storm hits. It’s wise to have these discussions long before a storm is even on the radar.
4. Know that leaving pets behind during an evacuation is not an option.
If you evacuate during a storm, the ASPCA says, always take your pets with you — never leave them behind in your home or tethered to poles or trees (in the incidence of high water, they won’t have a chance at survival). Top tip to remember: if it’s dangerous for you, it’s dangerous for them.
5. Make sure your pet is comfortable with their carrier in advance.
Practice getting your pet in their carrier to reduce the amount of stress during a true emergency. The ASPCA suggests preparing them by gradually acclimating them to their crates. Try placing food inside an open crate and eventually having them eat their meals in a closed crate. Small exercises like this can help pets develop a positive rather than negative feeling while inside their carrier. If you are waiting for a hurricane to hit, consider crating them early — it’s a good way to keep them safe and to know exactly where they are should you decide to leave.
6. Bring handling equipment like a leash and collar.
Since storms and evacuations can be scary, a pet carrier should be your pet’s main mode of transport but you’ll also need a leash or collar to maneuver your potentially skittish pet — both of these things will help prevent him or her from wiggling away and getting lost.
7. Label your crate and carry a photo.
Your name, phone number and pet’s name should be clearly marked on your carrier (make sure it can’t be easily removed). The ASPCA suggests using a waterproof sheet protector to hold copies of your pet’s medical records, prescription information, and more. It is also a good idea to carry a photo of you and your pet with you, it could prove helpful if your pet is ever missing.
Download the ASPCA’s mobile app for more helpful tips. The free app also stores pet records needed for boarding pets at evacuation shelters and has a disaster preparedness checklist.
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