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If you’ve read Mom Knows It All for a long while then you may recall seeing the photo above before. I took that photo myself after Hurricane Sandy barreled through the Jersey shore and many other areas on the coast. We were without power for 11 days after the storm. We didn’t have Dobby back then. If we had, we almost certainly wouldn’t have been prepared to care for him properly following a natural disaster like Sandy. Heck, we were barely able to care for ourselves. Preparedness was not something we had seriously contemplated.
June is National Pet Preparedness Month. I’ve learned a lot since Sandy devastated our area. Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a YouTube Live chat on Pet Preparedness with Dr. Kurt Venator of Purina. Purina is no stranger to pet crisis and emergency preparedness. In 2016 they donated more than 130,000 lbs of pet food nd over 42,000 pounds of litter to help animals affected by disaster.)
Being here at the shore and having had the experience I did, I thought the chat was a great opportunity for me to be sure I had a clearer idea on how to be best prepared to care for my pets in the case of an emergency.
The term emergency means different things to different people. For some it may be a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or other natural weather event. For others it could be an extreme heat wave or lengthy power outages. For other still it could be wildfires. Everyone with a pet should be including their pets in their disaster and emergency plans. I’m going to share some tips from our chat with Dr Kurt, so that you can apply them as needed to your family’s emergency plan.
The best way to be prepared for an emergency is to prepare long before the emergency. Create a network with other people in your immediate area. We all lead busy lives and may not be home at the moment an emergency strikes. The goal of this network is to form a circle of people that can trust each other that can go into each others homes and check on or remove pets should an emergency situation call for it. It’s also a good idea to make a list of places in and around your area that allow pets or offer boarding, including shelters, hotels, vets and kennels. Research these before an emergency arises, by the time an emergency happens you may not have time or the ability to make the calls.
Plans should take both evacuation and sheltering in place into account. There are different things to keep in mind for each.
- When sheltering in place, your safest space is usually downstairs and won’t have any windows. Your animal should be familiar with this area. If you do venture outside remember that if it is uncomfortable for us humans to be outside then it is likely also uncomfortable for your pet. Remain aware of conditions outside such as the temperature and do your best to keep your pets cool. For evacuations, your animals should be familiar with being on. Getting sufficient exercise while sheltering in place can be difficult at best, if not impossible. Be sure to provide enrichment activities for your pet, such as playing games with their favorite toys. You might even want to keep a new toy on hand to stimulate their mind.
- For evacuations, your animals should be familiar with being on leash, in a carrier, in an elevator, on a staircase or in a car so they aren’t doing something for the first time during a stressful time. Make sure your entire family is aware of any emergency evacuation plan and be sure to practice it.
In the event of a disaster or emergency it is crucial that you are prepared with an emergency kit for your pet. Here are the important items you will want to have on hand for your pet in the event of an emergency.
- Water supply – You’ll want to have 1 gallon of water on hand for every 3 days for cats and dogs.
- Food supply – You’ll want to have a 7-14 day supply of food. Canned food is preferable because it is transportable. Be sure to have a can opener if the cans don’t have pull-top tabs.
- Portable bowls
- Collar with identification and leash
- Pet carrier – Have an appropriately sized carrier on hand and keep a blanket and a toy in it. You should ideally have one carrier per pat so they have their own space, toy and blanket.
- Doggie life jacket if your area is prone to flooding
- Dog Booties if your area is prone to flooding or excessive heat. Sand and blacktop can get very hot. Our pets’ feet can burn, so consider keeping booties on hand to protect their feet.
- Waterproof pet stickers – Place stickers like these on your windows so rescuers know to look for animals inside.
- Newspaper or housebreaking pads – You’ll want these on hand in case it isn’t safe to take your dog outside.
- Portable litter pan and litter for cats – Ideally you will want one per cat.
- Trash bags and paper towels
- Waterproof document holder – Having important papers and medical records for your pets ready at a moment’s notice will be helpful if an emergency does arise and you need to go to a different vet. Be sure to have a current photo of your pet in this packet.
- Emergency first aid kit for pets – Be sure to include any medications your pet requires
- Small notebook and pen – This is a handy place to keep a list of shelters, hotels in and outside of your immediate area, vets and kennels that offer boarding. It’s also a good place to write down names and numbers in your neighborhood network.
Do keep in mind that if you’ve been displaced you may have to reintroduce your pet to their routines. Your best bet is to stay calm and positive. Proceed slowly and consistently and let your pet come to terms with any changes to their environment.
To learn more about pet preparedness along with other summer safety considerations for your pets, please tune into the Purina Summer Safety and Travel Facebook Live event which will take place on June 29 at 12 pm CT / 1 pm ET on the Purina Facebook page. Some of the topics planned for discussion include how to calm pets during anxiety-inducing situations like travel, tornadoes and fireworks.