In the past several years there has been an increase in severe weather. Recently hurricanes like Irma, Ivan, Harvey and Katrina have devastated areas. Wildfires like the Party Rock wildfire and the Gatlinburg wildfires forced families to leave their homes. Severe weather is not limited to wildfires and hurricanes; tornadoes, earthquakes, house fires, flooding and severe winter weather can force families to flee for safety. Many times families may not have a chance to prepare. They just need to grab and go. That is why it is important to have an escape plan for people and pets.
Often reported in the news are pets that have been left behind, turned away from shelters and hotels, or families refusing to leave their pets, causing them to face often life-threatening severe weather. Having an evacuation plan for not only family members but also pets and livestock can save time and lives.
Here are some great tips from Animal Hospital of North Asheville and Evacuating With Your Fur Baby: 8 Steps Every Pet-Owner Needs To Know In Case Of Disaster by Ileana Paules-Bronet
1. Pet Evacuation: ID Your Pet
Make sure your pets’ collars and tags are up-to-date with your current contact information, just in case you get separated from your fur babies. Additionally, you should microchip your pet — this is the best way to guarantee you’ll be reunited with your pets if they get lost. Be sure the contact information is up to date. Many microchip companies allow for an alternate contact which can be a friend or family member. This helps if you are unable to be contacted due to loss of power or phone.
2. Pet Evacuation: Snap a Current Photo
Be sure to have a current photo of your pet in order to identify them if necessary. The photos should not only show how cute they are but also shows their defining features.
3. Pet Evacuation: Secure Your Pet
Before an emergency, purchase a pet carrier for each of your fur babies — then write your name and contact information, along with your pets’ names, on the carriers. When you purchase the carrier, get your pet familiar with it, and practice transporting them in the carrier before an emergency. This will make them more comfortable with being inside the carrier during an evacuation situation. You should also make sure you have extra leashes and harnesses to keep them safe while they’re outside.
Here is a great video to help your cat to learn to love their carrier:
4. Pet Evacuation: Identify Shelters
Not all shelters and hotels that are set up for humans are able to take pets, so if you plan to stay at a shelter or hotel when you evacuate, make sure you find one that is okay with pets.
The 2006 PETS act requires FEMA to include pet owner needs in a disaster preparedness plan, and authorizes the FEMA director to fund emergency shelter facilities for pets. However, hotels are not required to accept pets, and not all shelters accept them either.
5. Pet Evacuation: Coordinate a Backup Plan
No matter what you are planning on doing with your pets when you evacuate — boarding them, leaving them at a shelter, or taking them with you — make sure you have a backup plan. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about what they’re doing with their pets, and see if you can help one another out with evacuation. In case of emergency situations, you may not be able to get home before evacuating — the ASPCA recommends having designated caregivers (who hopefully live nearby) who are comfortable with your pets and willing to care for them in a time of need.
6. Pet Evacuation: Separate Dogs And Cats
Pets can sense when something is wrong, and it may cause them serious stress and anxiety. Even if your dogs and cats are normally fine together, the stress of the situation may cause them to act irrationally, especially if they are in confined spaces. For this reason, separate your cats, dogs, and other pets when you’re evacuating (or anytime during an emergency situation). Ideally, every animal should go in a separate crate or carrier until you can get them to a calm, safe place.
7. Pet Evacuation: Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit
Many people have human emergency kits and “go bags” with necessary items, but it’s important to have them for pets as well. Pet emergency kits should include enough food and water for two weeks, food and water bowls, medical records and any medications, poop bags, kitty litter, and other clean-up items, and any comfort items your pet might need (like a bed, blanket, or toy). Have a copy of vaccine records, list of medications and medical records in case your pet needs medical attention.
8. Pet Evacuation: Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
It is recommended that families with pets have a rescue alert sticker near the front door of the house in case of any emergency. The sticker should include information on any pets that live in the house. A rescue alert sticker can help in case there’s ever a fire or flood at your house so that first responders know to save your pets, but it can also be helpful during an evacuation situation. If you have a rescue alert sticker and you evacuate your home, write “EVACUATED” on the sticker so that rescue workers know they don’t need to search your house for pets. Check with your local pet store or purchase an alert sticker online.
Be Prepared! Be Safe! Save a Life!