“No animal left behind.” That phrase should ring in your ears whenever you contemplate the need to evacuate your home due to or during an impending disaster – whether natural or manmade. The “unexpected” can happen to anyone – at anytime. Fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, train derailments resulting in toxic spills, and factory or pipeline explosions, can all precipitate mandatory evacuation.
By thinking about what you would need to do, and planning ahead, you will be able to mitigate problems and provide protection and care for your entire family – including your pets. Organizing and gathering your supplies ahead of time means you won’t be caught without what you need in an emergency.
Never leave your animals behind thinking “they will be fine” until you return. You have no way of knowing when you will be able to get back to them. It could be days or weeks. Even a few hours of leaving them in harm’s way could put their lives at risk. Local authorities will not allow you back once they have ordered evacuation from an area.
Remember that many emergency shelters will not allow animals inside. However, some will let you bring them in if contained in carriers. Some animal shelters and veterinary clinics will allow temporary housing during times of emergency. Also, many motels and hotels will temporarily suspend normal policies and allow animals during disasters. But if worse comes to worse, your animals are better off with you even if they must stay in the car, than left behind with no one to look after them.
Some tips for being prepared in the event of a disaster:
- Have a backup plan in case you are not at home when evacuation is necessary. Have an agreement with a neighbor or friend who would have ready access to your animals, and discuss necessary plans of action ahead of time. Make sure they know where your evacuation kit and other needed items are stored, and if at all possible, try to get them acquainted with your animals ahead of time. Write out a detailed list of your animals’ names, behavior, needs, etc. and make several copies. Establish a meeting place outside of the likely evacuated area. Exchange phone, cell, pager numbers, etc.
- Keep on hand a list of emergency phone numbers such as veterinarian, animal shelters, and other useful numbers such as weather reports, sheriff’s dept., highway patrol, etc.
- Assemble a basic supply kit for your animals. It should include sufficient supplies for at least 72 hours for each animal. The kit should include: current ID and photos of you with your animals; a way to keep the animals confined or controlled; food and water, and the dishes to hold them; leashes, halters, etc.; sanitation items; shot records; pet first aid kit and medications; toys & familiar bedding.
- Put collars with names & contact numbers on your animals if at all possible. If they get separated from you, it may make all the difference in reuniting them with you. Multiple copies of photos for handing out would also be very helpful if you are separated from your pets.
- Blankets, warm clothing, and rain-gear for yourself are important if you must stay in your car or have no building to shelter in. Also useful is a portable radio and plenty of fresh batteries.
- Keep your pre-packed kit in a handy place and be sure everyone in the family knows where it is. (Be sure to rotate foods and meds so they don’t get old).
- Be alert to possible disasters and emergencies by keeping up with news and weather reports. Consider buying a scanner – especially if you live in rural areas prone to regular problems such as wildfires, etc.
- Decide ahead of time where you will go with your animals when you need to evacuate your home, and make sure it is out of the way of the disaster area.
- Do not wait until the last possible minute to leave. As soon as danger seems like it is coming your way, as soon as the authorities recommend leaving the area – then take your animals and emergency kits and get going. Staying put too long will, at the very least, subject you to traffic jams on the highways, and it will give you fewer options about where you can stay once you get where you are going. Sometimes, your route will be cut off sooner than expected – leaving you without escape.
These simple preparations could save your animals’ lives. Even if your home is destroyed, at least you won’t have the added heartbreak of losing your beloved pets. Every year hundreds of pets die or are lost needlessly because they have been left to fend for themselves. Don’t let this happen to your own four-legged friends.
For more information and help on this subject, as well as current status of disaster areas, see the Noah’s Wish web site at http://www.noahs-wish.org/ . This website also has an extensive list of instructions for specific animals ranging from amphibians to horses to turtles, etc.
The Noah’s Wish organization also provides emergency assistance in major disasters.
Contact them at:
P.O. Box 997 Placerville, CA 95667
Business Number: (530) 622-9313
Emergency Pagers: 877-575-0128 or 800-746-9390