As we’re all likely aware, it would behoove us to expect the unexpected. Natural disasters—from fires to floods and earthquakes to hurricanes—are part of our lives (to say nothing of pandemics!). However, preparation is a large part of any successful battle plan! Even if we can’t prevent all aspects of a disaster, mitigating the effects of emergency situations can still be considered a win.
Perhaps you’re ahead of the game and think you’re prepared. Maybe you already have an earthquake kit stored in your garage or cold weather gear tucked in your trunk. But have you considered the special needs your pets might require to stay safe in an emergency?
Here are the best ways to keep your pet safe during an unexpected emergency.
Be prepared and make a plan
The first step in being prepared to keep your pets safe in an emergency is to outfit them with a collar and microchip, and to make sure that both include your up-to-date contact info.
Next, store leashes and/or carriers near the exit of your house, along with any other equipment you may need for a car ride. Finally, keep a copy of all medical records in an easy to grab location.
Prepare for emergency evacuation
To prepare yourself for an emergency evacuation, help your pets become comfortable in their carriers beforehand by acquainting them with getting in and out and spending time in them. Practice transporting your animals in your car, or if you don’t have your own vehicle, find someone who does that is willing to help in case of an emergency, and practice with them. Take note of where in your home your pets like to hide when they’re scared, so you can find them when the time comes.
In case of evacuation, research shelters and/or hotels near you that accept animals, as well as any boarding facilities (including veterinary offices that board pets) that are close by. Coordinate with family, friends, or neighbors beforehand if you think you may need help evacuating. Designate an alternate caregiver in case you’re unable or unavailable to care for your animal(s), and make sure your pet(s) are comfortable with the person you’ve chosen.
Prepare to shelter at home
In case of the need to shelter at home, designate safety zones in your home that you can feel safe in. For instance, an interior, windowless room in case of a hurricane, a basement area in case of a tornado, or a second-floor room (or elevated area) in case of flooding. Have a plan for accessing fresh water, staying warm, and keeping everyone safe.
Be proactive and create a disaster kit
Much like an emergency preparedness kit for the human members of your household, you should craft a disaster kit for your pets. Below is a list to get you started, but please customize as needed, based on the individual needs of your pet(s).
- Pet carrier(s) labeled with pet’s name and your contact info
- Leashes and/or harnesses
- Food and water for two weeks, along with necessary bowls and dishes
- Manual can opener
- One month supply of flea, heartworm, and tick preventative medication
- Two weeks supply of any medications
- Litter box and litter for cats
- Waste bags for dogs
- Toys and bedding, and anything else that will help them feel comfortable
- Photocopies of all medical records, including vaccinations and medications
- Recent photos of pets, plus descriptions in case they get lost
- Contact info for yourself and emergency contact
- First Aid book focused on animal care
- Cleaning supplies
How to weather any emergency
If you have a family emergency that requires you to leave suddenly, you may need last minute care for your pet(s). The best thing you can do in this situation is to have prepared ahead of time and found last minute care options. Make a list of what you want and need in a pet sitter—such as someone comfortable with disbursing medication, caring for more than one animal, etc.—and start researching who and what is available in your area.
There are numerous online services and apps that provide pet sitters, but the first course of action should always be asking people you know for their recommendations. Make sure that anyone you hire is bonded and insured, ask for (and follow up on!) references, and if possible, meet for an in-person interview. Be sure to ask any potential caregivers if they’re open to last minute requests in case of emergencies.
While doing this research, create a check list for future pet sitters that includes your pet’s normal feeding and exercise times, any information on medications or special needs, and contact information for your veterinarian and emergency contact.
As in most scenarios in life, preparation is 90% of the battle. Planning ahead is the best way for you and your pet(s) to come through an emergency safely and will help put your mind at ease. After the past year, a little peace of mind will go a long way for all of us!