Weather is not only be unpredictable but can be dangerous depending on the time of year and where you live. The best defense against a natural disaster is to be prepared. That means taking steps to ensure that your entire family is safe, including your furry family members, who will be especially vulnerable during an emergency. A little disaster preparedness for pets can go a long way towards ensuring their safety.
No matter where you live, you are probably at risk for some type of natural disaster whether it be tornadoes, floods, earthquakes or blizzards. There are many general precautions that will help ensure your pet’s safety during a time of crisis, especially if you must evacuate your home.
Create an Evacuation Plan
As a general rule, never leave your pet behind if you are evacuating. You should always ensure human safety first, but for many pet owners, the safety of a pet is equally important. One way to facilitate a safe escape of every family member, including four-legged ones, is to have an evacuation plan in place. Identify a member of the family who will be in charge of evacuating the family pet. Also, make arrangements with a neighbor or friend to get your pet in case there is an emergency when no one is in the home. A rescue alert sticker on the front door will also help first responders locate your pet in an emergency.
Keep an Emergency Kit Handy
Another great way to stay prepared is to make sure your emergency kit includes necessary items for your pet including a collar, leash, pet food, medication and a copy of medical records. The first aid kit should also be stocked with pet-friendly products. Depending on how much room your emergency kit has, you could also include a litter box and litter for cats, and maybe a favorite toy or blanket to help keep your pet calm during a crisis. You should also have a carrier or crate ready to go at a moment’s notice. Make sure your pet’s name and your contact information is written on each carrier. Finally, make sure to have evacuation drills that include the entire family, including the pets.
Staying Put During a Natural Disaster
In situations where you do not need to evacuate, you can take steps to ensure your pets safety during a natural disaster. First and foremost, keep your pets calm and comfortable. Being with the family may be the best way for the entire family to stay calm during an emergency. During a tornado, stay in predesignated safe zones in your home such as the basement or cellar. Smaller, windowless rooms are better in case you have to round up the family quickly, and make sure to place pet crates securely under heavy furniture.
Keeping Pets Safe During a Tornado
Regardless of the weather, your pet should always be wearing a collar with a current ID tag, as well as being microchipped. During severe storms including tornados, you should keep pets indoors. If the risk of a tornado is severe, you should put your cat in a crate right away because it may be difficult to secure your cat during a tornado. Similarly, keep dogs on a leash in case you need to move quickly, or your dog tries to run away.
Preparing Your Pet for a Flood or Hurricane
If you are at risk of a flood, you should stay inside with your pets in the room with the highest elevation. If your entire house becomes submerged, move the family to the roof and await rescue. Also, have enough supplies to ensure proper disposal of pet waste since you may not be able to take your dog outside. If possible, feed your pet moist or canned food because this will reduce thirst. If your emergency kit has flotation devices, consider including one for your pet. During a hurricane flooding can also occur, but make sure and keep your pet indoors to avoid dangerous flying debris caused by the hurricane’s high winds. Sheltering in an interior room without windows can help keep you and your pet safe.
Earthquake Pet Safety
Some natural disasters like earthquakes happen suddenly without warning. During an earthquake, you should drop to the floor and remain as low to the ground as possible, and find a secure place under a door frame or underneath a table. Try to secure your pet in your safe space, but do not risk human safety by chasing after a pet. Most experts agree that during an earthquake, the best way to keep your pet safe may be to allow your pet to find safety on its own. Animals have great instincts and trying to restrain a frightened pet may result in injuries to humans and pets.1
What to Do if You are Indoors vs. Outdoors During an Earthquake
If you are indoors, your pet will most likely find a safe place which may be small and accessible only to the pet. If you are outside with your dog during an earthquake, drop to the ground and crawl to an open space away from trees, buildings and power lines. Your dog will be frightened and most likely try to escape. Hold on to the leash tightly as you seek safety, but if you find yourself at risk, or your dog may be hurt, you should let your dog go and find safety. Once the shaking stops, you will be able to look for your dog.
Extreme Cold or Winter Storms
During extreme cold or blizzards, keep pets indoors with very short trips outdoors for dogs to take bathroom breaks. Dress small dogs, older dogs and short-haired dogs in a sweater before venturing outside, and dog booties are a good way to avoid frostbite. Keep your dog on a leash at all times and beware of de-icing salt on the ground which can harm a dog’s paws. Make sure to wash you dog’s paws after a walk to get rid of possible de-icing salt which is harmful if ingested. Pay particular attention to the paw pads and the spaces between the toes. You should also towel dry your dog to get rid of any moisture after a trip outside.
Finding a Lost Pet After a Natural Disaster
After a natural disaster the safety of your family and pets is a top priority. Make sure to seek medical attention immediately and be careful when leaving the house. If your pet has been separated from your family, there are many ways to ensure reunification. Hopefully, your pet is wearing a collar with your current contact information and microchips can be very helpful in this situation. Most lost pets can be found at local shelters and often temporary shelters are set up to facilitate large number of displaced pets. Try to visit as many shelters as possible and attempt to see each found animal yourself because you shouldn’t rely on a verbal description. Because your pet may be traumatized, don’t be shocked if it takes a moment for your pet to recognize you.
Make sure to check local veterinary clinics as well and have your pet’s microchip information available. If you are not immediately reunited with your pet, post information on social media, bulletin boards, local newspapers, and post flyers. Include current photos of your pet’s face and body from different angles and make sure to mention any distinguishing marks. While your pet may be desperately trying to get home, your pet may be disorientated or confused, so it’s up to you to get out there and search. With a little bit of preparation, you can ensure that your entire family, including your pets, can remain safe during and after an unfortunate natural disaster.
Don’t forget that being prepared from the unexpected can also include the financial burden of veterinary care. If your pet requires treatment or veterinary attention, a pet insurance policy from Pets Best can help give you peace of mind.
1 Earthquake Safety for Pets [online article], Retrieved on September 9th, 2019, from https://www.foundanimals.org/earthquake-safety-pets/
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