Saturday, September 1, 2012

Animal Preparedness in a Disaster like the Ponderosa Fire - Part I

During the recent fires we have come to realize disaster can strike anywhere at any time, without notice.  Many of us are often unprepared to evacuate quickly with not only our family but also the animals under our care.  The decisions faced during that critical time are often hard and difficult to make.  The possibility of you and your animals surviving depends mostly on the emergency planning done before catastrophe strikes unexpectedly.

As harsh as the reality is, animals left behind during emergencies can be injured, lost or killed.  In addition, if turned loose, they can fall victim to exposure, starvation, predators, and contaminated food and water.  Beloved family pets left inside a residence may escape and fall prey to the same, as well as those left tied outside.  Your animal’s safety is ultimately your responsibility.

Preparing ahead for a disaster aids in assuring your animals will survive and, if separated from you, be reunited.  To prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling necessary supplies and developing a disaster plan, basically is the same for any emergency.  Whether you decide to stay where you are or to evacuate, you need to plan before the situation arises.

Be aware, many evacuation centers only permit service animals and will not accept family pets.  Therefore, it is vital that a list of places where pets can go is established.  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND.  If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for those under your care.  Contact your veterinarian for a list of boarding kennels or ask if they will take your pet in case of emergency.  Contact local animal havens and ask, if in case of disaster, they provide emergency shelter.  Locate hotels or motels away from your area that accept pets.  Many hotels and motels will waive, in cases of severe emergencies, no pet policies.  In addition, ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to take in your pet.  When a warning of an impending evacuation occurs, call and confirm any arrangements made.

Put together a pet emergency supply pack.  It should include a minimum of three (3) days food and water for all pets.  If canned food is utilized, consider pop-tops.  Do not forget to add feeding dishes.  Other items to incorporate are:
  • First aid kit – The pet’s veterinarian can tell you what to include.
  • Separate pet records which list: The type and breed  of pet; the pet’s name; a contact name with address, phone number and area code; sex; distinguishing characteristics; whether the pet is spayed/neutered and if the pet is micro-chipped.
  • Pet carrier or crate.
  • Photocopies of medical records, with proof of all vaccinations.
  • A two-week supply of any medications the pet requires, including information on dietary restrictions, feeding schedules, etc.
  • Leashes, muzzle, collars, or harnesses which have an ID tag attached.
  • A current photo of the pet, in case you are separated and need to create "Lost" notices.
  • Blankets and towels (paper and cloth), plastic trash bags, flashlight, and cleaning products.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily taken can help reduce stress.
  • If cats are involved, a litter pan, scoop litter, plastic bags and scooper
 Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.  Have a blanket accessible to put over the cage for both warmth and to help reduce the stress of traveling.  If the weather is warm, have a spray bottle available to periodically moisten the bird's feathers.  Band the leg for identification purposes.  A timed feeder will ensure the uninterrupted daily feeding schedule of the bird.

When preparing for reptile or amphibian (herptile) pets, bring heating pads or other warming devices, like heating packs or hot water bottles.  Styrofoam insulated boxes can be utilized as temporary housing for the animal.  DO NOT FORGET WATER.  Since you may not be able to obtain fresh vegetables or fruits during a disaster, keep frozen items ready for emergencies.  However, if your herptile feeds on live food, remember to consider this for evacuation as well.  Spray bottles help maintain the higher humidity some herptiles require.

Small animals, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs, should be transported in secure carriers with bedding materials, food, and water.  


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