2017 is about 3 months away from being over. So far, planet earth has faced wildfires, floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes, all in less than a year. Studies show that the world faces approximately 600 natural disasters, yearly. In most cases, they strike without ample warning, leading to destruction at unimaginable scales.
During such disasters, along with human lives, the number of animal lives lost is heartbreaking. Domesticated animals rely on their human parents for food, shelter and comfort on a daily basis. This need manifolds when they’re faced with dangerous situations.
Disastrous conditions often lead to evacuations. Unfortunately, not all evacuation centers accept non-human animals. This forces some pet owners to leave behind their beloved pets in dire circumstances, due to unavailability of last minute alternatives. Recent polls show that majority of pet owners would rather reject help from authorities and remain with their pets, if the authorities refused to take their animal companions along with them.
Being prepared and armed with knowledge to face disasters and possibly a temporary or permanent evacuation, is the best way to minimize stress if/when the time comes.
Preparing for a disaster –
Due to the unpredictability of emergencies, it’s better to be prepared for the worst.
Pet’s Updated Identification: The atmosphere during disasters can be highly chaotic. You may be in a situation where you’re temporarily separated from your pets. Before this happens, you as a pet parent should make sure that your pets have your contact information along with the pet’s medical conditions - if any, listed on them. This makes it possible for rescuers to efficiently care for your pets until they are able to reach you. Microchipping a pet as a permanent form of identification, has recently become very common. If a lost pet is microchipped, an animal shelter or vet clinic can scan the pet for a chip to find his ID number, which would be used to find the the owner’s details from the database. Some owners don’t like the idea of introducing a foreign body into their pets. In such cases, Waterproof Pet ID Tags with details such as the pet’s name, the owner’s valid & updated contact information and any of the pet’s medical conditions, should be listed.
Rescue Alert Stickers: These stickers are used to alert rescuers that there are animals living inside the marked house. Contact your city’s SPCA, since most of them will be happy to provide these for free. If you can’t find any locally, print some out and add in information about your pet. The basic info such as the number of pets, and your contact details should be listed. Paste these on your front door and windows as soon as a disaster warning is issued.
List Down Pet Friendly Evacuation Centers: Thankfully, the last few years have seen a relaxation of rules regarding allowance of pet animals in evacuation centers. Contact your local centers and confirm if they will allow your pet companion with you in case of an emergency. List down the name, location and contact information of at least a few such centers close to you.
Accommodation Alternatives: In the event that all the evacuation centers are full, you can take your pets to pet friendly motels, in a safer region of your city. Look them up and list them down too. Check out the sites below to find pet friendly accommodations worldwide.
Prepare Emergency Pet Care Kits: In the event of an evacuation caused by a crisis, It’s not possible to accurately predict the number of days that might keep you away from home. Having an emergency kit ready, with supplies enough for yourself, your family and your pets for 1-2 weeks at least, will reduce evacuation time and stress.
We recommend including the following in your pet’s emergency kit -
Pet carriers or crates for each of your pet, large enough for them to comfortably stand and lie down in. Paste waterproof stickers with relevant information on top and bottom of these carriers.
1 primary leash & collar along with 2 extra leashes and collars, for each pet.
Copies of your pet’s vaccine Information
Copies of latest photographs of your pets
First-aid kit for animals, especially including necessary medications for your pets.
Canned food & bottled water that would last your pets at least 1-2 weeks, along with a small can opener
Lightweight dishes & bowls
Lightweight disposable litter trays and litter for cats
Sanitation products like soap, paper towels and cotton
A small blanket & pillow for each pet
Play toys to distract them and prevent them from stressing
Weather specific items such as a sprayable bottle of water to cool down your pets if the disaster occurs in a city with extreme heat, sweaters and blankets for snowy weather or animal raincoats for a stormy city.
If you live in an area that’s prone to disasters, we suggest having one such kit handy at all times. However, don’t forget to replace products and medications with fresh ones, before they expire. Another thing to remember is that if you have an unusual or exotic pet, make sure you pack supplies that are specific to the animal.
While this may all seem like an extra effort and expense, we assure you that preparing beforehand will save you tons of stress and possibly even money, in the event of a disaster.
During a disaster –
Keep your pets around you: As soon as you hear a disaster alert, make sure they’re inside your home or outdoors with you in a safe area, depending on the conditions of the disaster. During such times, animals tend to become disoriented, which can prove to be dangerous for their well-being if they’re left alone.
Notice changes in behavior: A disruption in the daily lives of your pets due to loud thunders, flood waters or earthquakes may cause them to react differently from usual. If your pet is particularly distressed , tackle the situation smartly without wasting too much time. For example, If your generally friendly dog is running away from you due to fear, slowly go closer to him, kneel down and offer some of his favorite treats to calm him.
Evacuate with your pets: If an evacuation is the only solution for you to be safe, do everything you can to take your pets along with you and not leave them at home. If the conditions are life threatening for humans, then they are even more dangerous for most animals. Take a second to write “EVACUATED” on the stickers outside so the rescuers know that the animals are with the owners. Find your nearest pet friendly evacuation shelter for your safety as well as your pet’s and don’t attempt to return until the authorities deem it safe.
In the aftermath of a disaster, as soon as things return somewhat to normalcy, take your pets to the vet or to an animal centric boarding facility. Give the professionals all the information on your pet’s medical history and have them checked up for any illnesses. This is especially important if the disaster involved dangerous fumes that the pets may have inhaled or if your pets have been in contact with infected waters.
All of this prep beforehand will save you so much stress in the face of calamity. We sincerely hope that you and your pets don’t ever face any kind of disasters, but if you do, this information will prove to be useful.
Have your own tips that might help other pet owners? Share them with us in the comments below!
Himanshi lives in a Cyberpunk universe inside her head. When she's outside it, she wanders around the streets of the world, in search of the next furry animal to cuddle. When not designing or writing, she's out and about taking photographs of abandoned places and interesting faces.