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Animal Companion Emergency Advice
In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. So prepare ahead of time for the day when you and your pets may be forced to leave your home.
Public shelters cannot accept pets. Make alternative arrangements before disaster strikes:
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species.
- Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of pet-friendly places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
- Ask friends, relatives, or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
Before Disaster Strikes
Before disaster strikes, assemble a portable Pet Disaster Supply Kit Whether you have to leave home for a day or a week, your pets will need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.) Your pet disaster kit should include:
- ID tag (including current licensing and vaccination information)
- Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape
- Current photos of your pets in case they get lost
- Dry food, water in gallon-size plastic containers, bowls, cat litter/pan
- Instructions on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets
- Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable
Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen.
Make advance arrangements in case you're not home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
If You Must Leave Your Pets Behind
If you must leave your pets behind:
- Make sure each pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag.
- Confine the pet to a room that doesn't have windows but does have ventilation. Leave familiar toys and bedding. Never turn pet(s) loose to fend for themselves or leave pet(s) tied outside.
- Provide pets with plenty of water and dry food.
- Leave dogs together only if they are compatible and of similar size. Always separate dogs from cats.
- Post a notice on the front door stating that the pet(s) are inside, and request the reader to notify animal control or humane authorities. Leave a phone number where you can be reached.
Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. Understand that domestic animals react differently under stress. As dogs become frightened - or hungry - they can form dangerous packs, and can ultimately interfere with rescue and recovery missions.