Pets cannot survive on their own during an emergency. Pet owners have the responsibility to keep their pets safe during a disaster. Thus, a disaster preparedness plan for families that own pets should include the safety of the family members as well as that of pets. Those who have pets are encouraged to do the following to prepare their companions during a crisis:
Make a disaster preparedness kit for pets with food and water to last for at least 3 days, cleanup items, leashes, litter box (for cats), plastic bags for waste (for dogs), a pet first-aid kit, as well as documents (photos of pets, medical records, etc.).
Before the disaster:
Make sure the pets wear a collar with contact information. In case they get separated, anyone who reads the pets’ tag will be able to contact the pet owner. Alternatively, microchip the pets to increase the chances to find them.
In case the home has to be evacuated, look for places for sheltering, such as pet-friendly hotels, at friends or a relative’s home. Local veterinary clinics, animal shelters or boarding facilities can also provide shelter, but only for pets.
Have a trusted person take care of the pets in the event that they will be alone during a disaster. The assigned person should have the key to the house and must be comfortable with the pets.
During the disaster:
The pets should be brought inside, but dogs and cats have to be separated. Even if they normally get along, their instincts will cause them to behave defensively and irrationally during an emergency.
Any small areas, such as vents and fireplaces, where cats can hide when frightened, should be sealed.
The dangerous items in the room, such as toxic plants and sharp objects, should be moved to a different area.
After the disaster:
If the pets have suffered injuries, they must be taken to the vet immediately.
Pets should be helped to get into normal routine to reduce their fear and confusion that may have been caused by the disaster.
Pets should not be let loose outside. If the area was damaged and modified, the pets might get disoriented and run away.
Dogs must be put into leashes if they are allowed outside. Damaged items in the area, such as downed power lines, might harm them.
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