Hurricane Florence was on its way and families were frantically preparing for the worst. Did those plans include pets?
There have been dramatic videos and photos of animals being rescued in the aftermath of Florence, including Robert Simmons Jr. and his kitten.
Sadly, there will be more hurricanes and other emergencies and with September being National Preparedness Month, we wanted to be sure to offer some tips on how to include your pets in your disaster planning so all family members have a chance to remain safe. It's also the law, thanks to a bill passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Do you have a general escape plan that includes your pets? What if there is a fire in your home? Have you thought of how your pets can get out? The National Fire Protection Association has tips for creating an escape plan that can be adapted to fire and other emergency situations.
Make sure all pets are wearing ID tags with up-to-date contact information. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification, should collars or tags become lost. Make sure your contact information is kept current with any microchip services.
Make sure and keep digital records and/or pictures to identify your pet after a disaster in case you become separated.
Practice your escape plan before disaster strikes. Practice taking your pets with you. Train them to come to you when you call.
Assign roles: one of you is on dog duty, while the other grabs important additions like carriers and kits.
Affix a pet alert window cling and write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets listed on them updated.
Before disaster strikes:
Thanks to modern technology, we often get plenty of warning before a major disaster. Ensure you and your furry family are prepared.
Create a portable pet emergency kit with items including medical records, water, water bowls, pet food, cat litter and your pet’s medications. Keep your pets' vet’s name and vaccination records handy in case of emergency.
Choose a designated caregiver, such as a friend or relative outside the evacuation zone, who can take care of your pet if you aren't able.
Determine what shelters or hotels allow pets. Bring Fido, Pets Welcome and the AKC are just a few that publicize pet-friendly shelters and accommodations. The local news often relays area shelters that allow pets as well.
Download the free ASPCA mobile app, which allows pet owners to store crucial pet records needed for boarding pets at evacuation shelters. It includes a disaster preparedness checklist.
Take care of farm friends in an emergency. Pack emergency items for them too, including vehicles and trailers. Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
During a disaster:
Bring your pets inside well in advance of a storm. Never leave pets chained or tethered outside.
Pets can become frightened by unfamiliar noises. Keeping your pet within sight when possible will reassure him.
On the road:
If you must evacuate, do NOT leave your behind! Dogs should be leashed and carriers should be used for cats and cage pets.
Don’t leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off
After the disaster:
If you have become separated from your pet, check with local animal shelters and veterinarians first. If possible, personally visit these locations as you know your pet better than anyone and these places will be chaotic in the aftermath of a disaster.
Tour the neighborhood and check with neighbors. It's possible your pet found refuge with a neighbor.
Make posters or fliers to leave with neighbors, shelters and vet clinics that includes several photos documenting a close up of the face, full body shots from both sides and the back, and any distinguishing marks. Post in the Lost section of Nextdoor and use the ASPCA's mobile app to search for your pet.
If your pet is microchipped, contact the company so they know your pet is missing. Several companies have networks to help owners find lost pets.
When you return home there could still be many dangers to people and pets including downed power lines, water-borne bacteria, floating debris. Keep people and pets away from water and debris.