Monday, July 21, 2014

Pet Safety Month: Animals in Disasters: Part 1: Plan Ahead


 In honor of Pet Safety Month, here are some suggestions to help you weather an emergency with your pet.

1) PLAN AHEAD

- Make sure your pet is microchipped. Collars and ID tags are important, too, but if your cat is wearing a safe break away collar, the collar could be lost and your cat's identification would be lost with it. Most of the lost cats that we hear about are not microchipped. If your pet has a chip with current registration information, they have more than 70% chance of finding their way back to you, compared to only a 10% chance if they have no identification. Onlyabout 1-2% of dogs and cats that appear in shelters as "found pets"have any kind of identification. Reasons that microchip identification fails to work include: unregistered chips, disconnected phone numbers, failure of the contacted owner to respond to phone calls or letters about their pet.

- Even if a collar could become lost, training your cat to wear a safe, break-away collar is a good idea, since that is the first form of identification that rescuers will look for. It is also more obvious that your pet has ID if they are wearing a collar, than if they are only microchipped, even if the only tag on the collar is the one that indicates your pet has a microchip! You may want to make sure that the phone number on your cat's ID tag is a cell phone and not a land line in case you need to relocate and cannot be reached at your home number.

- Know where the pet-friendly hotels are located in the near (and far) vicinity. If your house loses power and you need to relocate, you may not know how far you need to go to reach an area that is safe. You may also want to make an agreement with a distant friend or relative who will allow you to come stay at their house with your pets (or allow JUST your pets) in exchange for you agreeing to allow them to do the same. If you have multiple types of pets, you may need to make separate arrangements for each species (or even each pet!).

  • Make sure your back-up caretaker knows your pets' whereabouts and habits.
Let your back-up caretaker know where your pets' food is and where you normally feed them and keep their water bowl, and if they need any medication.

If you need help locating pet-friendly hotels, there are a number of online resources that can help you:

If you know that severe weather is approaching and that you may need to relocate, you may want to Michigan State Animal Response Team (MI-SART) is equipped to set up several animal shelters located near human shelters and is partnering withthe Red Cross to assist people in evacuating and caring for their pets.  
call ahead for reservations. Currently, Red Cross shelters do not admit any animals other than designated service animals to their shelters, however, the

- You may also want to locate emergency veterinary services outside your area, in case your pet is injured in a disaster and cannot be treated by your regular veterinarian. Also keep a list of boarding facilities or veterinary offices that plan to function in emergencies. Be aware that animal shelters bear most of the brunt of housing found pets in emergencies and will be stretched to the limit during these times, and may not be able to accommodate you.

-Exchange pet information, house keys and emergency information with a trusted nearby friend or neighbor. If you are unable to return to your home in an emergency situation, your friends or neighbors can evacuate your pets for you. If you have a regular pet sitter, he or she may be able to help, but it is a good idea to make plans in advance. Plan where to meet in case of emergency, in case power and phone communication is interrupted.

- Have an emergency kit for your animals with some important supplies and information that is ready to grab and go. We will be posting some emergency kit tips in our next article.

- Be aware of your cat's favorite hiding places so that you can locate him quickly in case of emergency. If you know ahead of time that severe weather is approaching, you may want to close off areas of the home from which it is difficult to retrieve your cats. 

- If an emergency does occur, remain calm. Your cats can sense your stress level and if you are upset, they will be, too. Some pets will feel comforted by interactions with you in a stressful situation and others will prefer to be left alone, or may benefit from being placed in a pet carrier with a blanket over the top, simulating a secure, cozy nest. Be aware that some pets may experience dramatic behavior changes during times of stress - a loving cat may become aggressive. 

- If your cat is used to going outside in a fenced yard, have a plan for the possibility that your fence might be damaged or destroyed in a severe storm. Make sure that your cats have been brought inside if a severe weather warning has been issued. Some cats may become disoriented if severe weather has affected their normal scent "directional markers" and may not be able to find their way home. Additionally, high winds or flooding may spread or spill chemicals that may be dangerous to your cat, such as chemicals, fertilizers, or other dangerous substances.

- If your cat becomes lost during an emergency, they will likely end up at an animal shelter. Keep a list of the local shelters in your area and their phone numbers and locations.
Mobile Animal Shelter Trailer

- Make sure to keep your cat's vaccinations up to date, since many emergency shelters will require vaccinations prior to admitting pets for sheltering, or will require special sheltering care, such as quarantine, for animals with no proof of vaccination.

- The most important rule: If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets! Even if you think you will only be gone a short time, take your pets, since you may find that even after the emergency has passed, travel may be restricted due to road damage, downed power lines, or other post-emergency problems. In addition, if they are left behind and your house is damaged, your cats could become injured or escape from your damaged home.

Additional Resources