The veterinary community is essential to ensure animal safety during a disaster. Many people think of their families but fail to consider the animals who rely on them.
This is where a vet comes in. Your role goes deeper than veterinary care--it's your job to educate pet owners on what they need to do in the event of a disaster.
There's no better time than Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, which was this past weekend. Here are three things that owners need to do before a disaster to keep their pets safe and healthy.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
First, owners should have an emergency kit prepared and on hand for their pet, much like you would keep a first-aid kit on hand for emergencies.
This emergency kit isn't just a first-aid kit, though. This kit is everything a pet might need if they had to quickly evacuate in the event of an emergency.
Kits should include things like:
- A pet-specific first-aid kit
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to safely transport your pet
- Pet food, water, bowls, and manual can openers (if your pet eats canned food)
- A litter box and cat litter if you have a cat
- Copies of medical records and a photo of your pet in case they get separated from you
- Feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and the name and contact information for your veterinarian
This kit should be made well in advance of any potential disasters and keep all items of the kit assembled together so that you can grab it and go in a hurry.
If you need a printable checklist, try this one.
Create an Emergency Plan
Obviously, pet owners would prefer to keep their pets with them in an emergency. They're family and no one knows them better. But sometimes, that just isn't possible.
Plus, disasters tend to create unpredictable situations that can quickly get out of hand if you're caught unprepared.
So the next step in emergency preparedness is creating an emergency plan for a pet. After all, you would make an emergency plan for your family members--pets are no different.
For example, owners should know where their pet will go in the event of a disaster.
Did you know that American Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets due to health and safety reasons? Service animals are permitted, but pets are not.
Knowing that, owners should do your homework in advance. Look into shelters outside the disaster zone that will accept family and pets. Look into hotels and motels along their evacuation route that will accept animals.
If a pet is fussy or especially nervous, owners should also investigate what friends or family members would be willing and able to take their pet in the event of an emergency. Ask in advance--you don't want to gamble only to have the plan fall through when an actual emergency arises.
Related to shelters is finding a temporary caregiver. This can be a formal or informal arrangement, but this person should be able to be at the house when the owner is not there. They should have keys and up-to-date information on the pet in their care, including medical information, feeding, and behavioral issues.
Donate to Help Animal Disaster Preparedness
Preparing one pet for a disaster helps your peace of mind, but there are many pets out there that still need help.
If you want to help other pets out there to be safe in a disaster or help a family recover from a lost animal, donate to Animal Impact. We help communities all over the world protect their animals and rebuild after disasters.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to encourage treatment or diagnosis of any animal medical condition. For medical advice, contact your veterinarian.