Keeping Pets In Mind When Making Disaster Preparations

As the weather gets warmer, weather conditions can change quickly. Recent hurricanes taught us many hard lessons, but one of the clearest was that pets left behind in a disaster don’t fare well. Here are some tips to help prepare your extended family for almost anything:

• Keep a pet carrier ready. Hard-sided carriers and crates often end up in attics or basements, gathering dust until the annual veterinary visit. If you live in an area that is frequently at risk for weather-related disasters, keep your carrier/crate out where it can be easily accessed.

• Prepare a disaster kit for your pet. Include food for five to seven days, jugs of water, a nonbreakable bowl, litter, any medication your pet may be taking, a recent photo (in case your pet gets loose and you need to prepare “lost animal” posters or prove ownership in order to retrieve her from a shelter), a harness or collar and leash and a thick bath or beach towel for safe handling during stressful times.

• Give your pet an identification tag. Nationally, only about 2 percent of stray cats turned into shelters are ever reunited with their guardians, though dogs fare somewhat better at approximately 16 percent. At the very minimum, a dog should always wear a license tag on his or her collar. While a few communities license cats, most do not. Get your cat a break-away collar and identification tag with your cell phone number on it as soon as possible. If your pet wasn’t microchipped at the time of adoption, ask your veterinarian to inject your pet with this permanent identification tool and be sure to keep the microchip registry updated whenever you change contact information.

• Organize a neighborhood pet watch. Trade keys with a neighbor who works from home to ensure someone is available to care for-or even evacuate-your pet in case of an emergency, when you can’t be there. Provide them with a list of your pet’s favorite hide-outs, as stressed animals are particularly adept at disappearing. Let police and fire officials know you harbor animals by placing a “Pets Inside” decal in the window of your front door. Make sure to remove the decal when you move or no longer have a pet, to ensure rescue workers do not endanger themselves looking for pets that are no longer there.

These four easy steps will help you not only protect your animal pals from being left behind when violent weather strikes, but help you and your family reach safety with as much peace of mind as possible. Only one last task awaits. Make sure your community disaster plan makes provisions for animals as well as people.