Pets Are Family Too: Preparing Everyone for Disaster

One of my favorite past times is binge-watching Netflix. I remember a few years ago I watched a movie that had me bawling in tears. No, it wasn’t Titanic or Steel Magnolias (although I do make sure I have a box of tissues with me whenever I watch these films). It was a documentary called MINE. The film follows Louisiana residents who became separated from their pets when they were forced to evacuate their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

Pets are a part of your family. As a dog-owner, I find this statement to be extremely true and I bet sixty percent of Americans who are pet-owners feel the same way. Pets enrich our lives and help us feel safe. However, they also depend on us for safety. During a disaster, they depend on us even more. So how can we stay prepared to take care of man’s best friend? Here are a few ways to help ensure your pet is safe in times of a disaster:

pet emergency kit
Sample Pet Emergency Kit

1.) Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit
Similar to an emergency kit for your family, make sure you create a separate emergency kit for you pets as well. Include three days worth of food and water, an animal first aid kit, a leash, dishes for food, a pet carrier, toys, and any medicine your pet may take. Also include sanitation items for your pet such as plastic garbage bags, paper towels, and a litter box. Your emergency kit should also include copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean waterproof bag. Lastly, include photos of you and your pet in your pet emergency kit. For any reason you and your pet are separated during a disaster, photos will help you document ownership and help others identify your pet.

2.) Arrange a Safe Haven
If you must evacuate your home during a disaster, evacuate with your pet. Never leave them at home alone. If your home isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet. Because of health and safety reasons many shelters, including Red Cross shelters, do not allow pets. It’s crucial to determine where to bring your pets during a disaster ahead of time. Find out which motels and hotels in your area allow pets. Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred pet hotels or other boarding facilities. Reach out to your local animal shelter to see if they provide emergency shelter for pets during a disaster. Keep a list of these facilities and their phone numbers in your emergency kit. Also, designate a caregiver for your pet by asking friends, neighbors, and relatives in your area if they would be willing to take care of your pet during a disaster.

Volunteer Liz Lepey’s dog Wheezer modeling a Be Red Cross Ready t-shirt

3.) Learn Pet First Aid
Learn how to properly care for and protect your pet when they are injured. The Red Cross has developed a Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid class. Click here to look up these courses in your area.

For more information on Pet and Disaster Safety, click here.

Aissa Fernandez
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Disaster Program Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

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