Make a Disaster Plan for Your Pets

When disaster strikes, it is always a good idea to be prepared. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes the second Saturday in May as National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. Here are some helpful tips from our doctors and technicians that you may want to consider when making a disaster plan for your pets:

1. Microchip Your Pet“Pets can lose their collars and IDs. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the best permanent identification. I recommend a microchip even if your pet never leaves the house. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule the size of a grain of rice. When a pet is found, the ID number is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified. The company looks up the ID number in their database to find the owner. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if you’ve registered your current contact information.” – Dr. Meg Murphy
2. Get a Rescue Alert StickerHaving these stickers on hand will let people know that pets are inside your home.Be sure that these stickers are in a location that is visible to rescue workers, and includes: 1) the types and number of pets in your home; 2) the name and phone number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate and are able to take your pets with you, if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the sticker.
3. Locate a ShelterLike people, arranging a safe haven for your pets ahead of time is equally important. “It is always a good idea to check if the local shelters will take pets because there are many that do not allow pets.” – Tasha McNerney, CVT, BS. In the event that you cannot find any local, pet-friendly shelters, contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels, or ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take your pet.
4. Prepare a Disaster Kit“When I think of an emergency evacuation kit, I think of leashes, cages, food, medical records, and medications.” – Jody Weaver, CVT and Practice ManagerHere’s a complete list of what your pet’s disaster kit should include:

  • At least five days worth of food and water for each pet — “Pet owners should reserve at least 1-2 gallons of water for their pets to drink, in addition to the water they reserve for themselves and family members.” – Dr. Michelle Bishop
  • Medications, medical records, and a first-aid kit — stored in a waterproof container
  • Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop, and garbage bags
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transports pets safely and ensure they can’t escape.
  • Photos of you and your pet — “Current photos of you with your pet and a description of your pet should also be kept in your disaster kit. If you are separated from them, a photo of you and your pet will help others identify them, and will also prove that they are yours once you are reunited.” – Vickie Byard, CVT, VTS (Dentistry)
  • Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pet or place them with someone other than yourself
  • Pet beds and toys, if you can take them, to reduce stress

5. Prepare an Evacuation Plan
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, it is always good to assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:

  • Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible.
  • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
  • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
  • Consider your evacuation route and call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone at the first sign of disaster.