A relentless string of hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters is prompting people to pack go bags and create emergency plans. Such catastrophes also put pets in danger.
Dogs, cats and other pets need a plan, too.
"Preparedness across the board is really critical,” says Tim Rickey, vice president of the ASPCA National Field Response, the team at the nonprofit humane organization that responds to disaster situations. “If you have an older animal or an animal with high anxiety or some other medical conditions, you have to be a little bit more thoughtful and plan ahead for that so that you are able to evacuate with the right resources and supplies and take those animals into the right type of environment.”
Last year, a national survey by the ASPCA found that less than half of pet owners have a disaster plan in place, yet 83 percent of pet owners reported living in a community that faces natural disasters. Additionally, more than 1 in 5 pet owners said they had evacuated their homes due to a disaster situation and of those evacuees, nearly half left at least one pet behind.
In that type of scenario, never leave without your pet, Rickey says. “Leaving a pet behind can expose them to numerous life-threatening hazards including the inability to escape the impending emergency — such as floodwaters and high winds — as well as having no access to fresh food and water for an unknown period of time,” Rickey wrote in an email. Here are some things to do to keep your pet safe during an emergency.
Create a pet go bag
Pack an emergency kit or backpack with ample food, water and treats for a week or more. Don't forget collapsible feeding and water bowls and a can opener if needed, along with medications and first aid supplies. These may include bandages and silver sulfadiazine cream for wounds and burns.
Include copies of your pet's key medical and vaccination records, so that anyone treating the animal is aware of special needs and drug contraindications. “If you have to evacuate during a disaster, vet clinics are not likely to be open, and if you're moving to another region there's going to be some delay before that prescription can be refilled,” Rickey says.
Along those lines, make sure vaccinations are current, even for indoor cats, because they can get loose during a storm, advises Lauren Vaughan, a veterinarian in West Hollywood, California. Vaughan also recommends having a printed photo of the animal on hand, in case your phone battery dies and you have no way to charge it. You might also carry a photo that includes you, too, as added proof that you are the pet's owner.
Bring a portable litter box, pee pads and poop bags, as well as the animal's bedding, carrier and crate. An extra collar, harness or leash may come in handy. To reduce the pet's inevitable stress during the tumult, pack his or her favorite toy.