Living in Oklahoma has made me keenly aware of the devastation caused by natural disasters. Although we do not get hurricanes, we are certainly accustomed to getting tornadoes, earthquakes, and severe thunderstorms with large hail, lightning, and straight-line winds.
I think that more information is needed to inform pet parents of resources that will help them make better decisions after reading stories about homeowners that were refusing to evacuate because they weren’t going to leave their pets behind. You can keep your pets safe during natural disasters by being prepared.
While you are creating an emergency plan and putting together emergency kits for your family, do not forget to include your pets. Sadly, across the entire Gulf Coast during Katrina, roughly 50,000 and 70,000 animals died.
I would never leave my pets behind even if it meant putting myself in danger. Pets are members of our family, and it would be devastating to be separated from them. If it is not safe for me to remain, then it is not safe for them.
How to Prepare Your Pets for Natural Disasters
Create A Pet Emergency Kit
Prepare your pets for natural disasters by filling a duffel bag, backpack, or any portable container that is easy to grab and go, with the following items. Name tags and phone numbers attached to the pet’s collars and harnesses, a leash, and a pair of gloves for safe handling (pets can become aggressive when scared). Moreover, you should have a pet carrier available to transport the pets safely.
Include the following supplies such as food, bowls, medications, water, pet blanket and toys if possible, a current photo of you and your pet(s), updated vaccine and microchip information, and a First Aid Kit.
Check out the valuable resources offered by The Humane Society of The United States.
What To Do If You Have To Evacuate
In 2006, Congress passed the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act that requires local jurisdictions to have a pet evacuation plan in place to qualify for FEMA funding in the event of a disaster. The PETS Act reflects the public understanding that pets are indeed a part of the family and has saved thousands of pets in various emergency situations.
If evacuated, attach the telephone number and address of the temporary shelter you found beforehand to the pet’s collar. Moreover, if you were unable to locate a temporary shelter, then include the name and phone numbers of a friend or family member outside the impacted storm area along with the name and number of your veterinarian.
Have A Disaster Plan In Place
The best thing to do to keep your entire family safe is to have an emergency plan in place. This plan should include where to go, what to take, and how to communicate during the emergency. For additional help on preparing for disasters, visit ready.gov.
Remember, the Red Cross offers tips on preparing pets for disasters. However, they typically do not allow pets into their shelters because they can be loud and have an adverse impact on the other tenants if they are frightened of animals.
The ASPCA suggests getting a “Rescue Alert Sticker” for your house so that when rescuers arrive to help, they will know there are pets inside of the structure. If you have evacuated, simply write “evacuated” on the sticker so the rescuers will not waste their time looking for animals that are no longer there.
To help keep your pets safe during natural disasters, be sure to locate hotels before the storm hits, that provide pet-friendly accommodations. Check out the following websites to help you in your search:
Tips For Returning Home Following A Disaster
When you return home following a disaster, remember that the area may still hold potential dangers for you and your pets. Your home will more than likely be a very different place after the emergency is over.
Keep your pets safe during a natural disaster by keeping them on a leash or in a pet carrier while you assess the damage. Because the familiar smells will probably be gone, your pet can quickly become disoriented and may end up lost if allowed to roam free.
Keep in mind that the recovery process can be long and stressful for both you and your pets, so be patient and stay positive. The stress can impact the entire family, and behavioral problems may arise. Try to get your pets back into their normal routine as soon as possible. If your pet seems to be suffering from health or behavioral problems for a prolonged period, then contact your veterinarian for guidance.
Some potential hazards may include downed power lines, fences, and tree branches. There may not be running water, electricity or other services. Scattered debris may be dangerous if your pet walks on it or decides to eat something lying on the ground. Be careful to check your yard and home for wild or stray animals that may have sought refuge from the storm.
What You Can Do To Help
There are numerous ways to help both as a volunteer and with monetary donations. Organizations that operate across the United States are the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Humane Society of The United States. Each of these organizations also has local chapters as well which you can find on their websites.
Another great group in Texas is the Austin Pets Alive which is helping pets displaced by Hurrican Harvey.
SPCA of Texas provides disaster relief to pets affected by Hurrican Harvey. They are assisting pets and people who have evacuated the Gulf Coast to the North Texas area.S
The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is fully prepared to help displaced pets after Hurricane Irma.
Best Friends Animal Society helps with resources to reunite families with pets lost from Hurricane Irma.
No one wants to think about being a victim of a natural disaster. However, if an emergency should arise, one thing is for certain; the better prepared you are before the disaster strikes, the calmer you and your pets will be.
I have had an emergency kit stored in my storm shelter for years. I am grateful that as of now, I have not had to seek refuge from a tornado, but I have peace of mind knowing that if the time ever comes, I have what I need to keep my family and my pets safe.