There’s a reason why so many resources are put into animal rescue and protection during disaster situations. Not only are pets adorable, they give people mental well-being and stability. For most people, pets are considered a part of their family or, at the very least, great friends. In times of emergency when everyone’s life is potentially at risk, pets need our attention and care most because they won’t be able to care for themselves. When caring for your pets during a disaster, it is important to have a good plan with plenty of back-up options as you can never be sure what is headed your way. As a general rule of thumb, if you are evacuating, take your pets with you. However, know that this means finding a shelter that takes in pets, having a safe method of transporting your pets, and having plenty of food and provisions to care for them in case resources get scarce. In general, being a good pet-owner and knowing all the details necessary for their care will go a long way in disaster situations. Preparation is also necessary in ensuring that your animals survive.
Before the Disaster
The most important step that you can take to care for your pets when a disaster arrives is to already have a plan in place. Not all emergency shelters allow pets for health regulation reasons, so it is important to research shelters ahead of time; Pet Evacuation, Pet Friendly Emergency Shelters, Disaster Preparedness for Pets provides an extensive network of links to find shelters in your state and county. Call your country emergency management office or local animal shelter. Also, be sure to Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit in addition to your own before a disaster approaches. Contacting and keeping a list of pet-friendly hotels and motels can also be extremely valuable and save your pets life; be sure to ask if hotels make exceptions in emergency or evacuation situations. On the chance that no one is at home to care for your pets when a disaster strikes, contact a neighbor or pet-sitter in advance to care for your pets until you can meet with them.
- Humane Society: Disaster Planning for Pets, Family provides basic information on how to plan for disasters and what is best to do during them.
- Humane Society: Disaster Preparedness for Pets gives an even more detailed guide to surviving disasters with your pets, including how to plan ahead for a variety of disasters, a disaster supply checklist, how to find a shelter for your pets, and a variety of unique situations like when you’re not home in the event of a disaster.
- FEMA: Information for Pet Owners provides good information about how to make a disaster plan for your pets, what to do during a disaster, and what to do after a disaster.
- Pet Disaster Plan: For Cats outlines the finer details of caring for your cat during a disaster, including a disaster kit for cats, ideas for bedding, ideas for storing food and feeding, and ways to find medication.
- Pet Disaster Plan: For Dogs provides the finer details of caring for your dog during a disaster, such as a detailed emergency kit, ideas for bedding, ideas for storing food and feeding, what medication is crucial to remember, and ways to find medication.
- The Earthquake Pet Disaster Plan details how to plan for an earthquake or tsunami disaster, including how to apply first aid, check for injuries, and even check for post traumatic stress.
During the Disaster
If you are being evacuated, never leave your animals behind. It is impossible to tell how long you will be evacuated from your home or what toll the disaster will take on your home. Even if you have been assured of a quick and temporary evacuation, always prepare for the worst and keep your pets with you to be safe. Be sure to take plenty of food, water, and medication with you for your pets, including an emergency first-aid kit. In addition, learning CPR and other medical emergency procedures for your pets could save their lives. If authorities force you to leave your animals behind, do not leave them loose outdoors. Keep them in a secure area in your home with access to upper floors in case of flooding. Leave out at least ten days’ supply of dry food and water. If you can’t get to your home, there is a chance that a friend or neighbor may be able to help care for your animals; provide specific instructions for care.
- CPR for Cats & Dogs demonstrates how to blow air into your dog’s lungs if they stop breathing but their heart is still beating.
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Issues provides a great amount of information on the issues surrounding pet health and welfare, including dog bite prevention, medication information, biosecurity, and vaccination resources.
- Dog First-Aid 101 serves as a complete resource for all things relating to canine first aid, even providing even an “ask a vet online” application with veterinarians online to answer questions about dogs or other pets as soon as possible.
- First Aid for Pets covers a comprehensive list of medical pet care advice from hot to transport a cat to how to diagnose and treat a fracture on your pet. This source also gives a list of helpful resources.
- Canine First Aid – Conducting A Dog ‘Head To Toe’ Examination gives a detailed guide of how to inspect your dog for medical injuries, proving to be a vital resource during disasters or emergencies.
After the Disaster
Even after you and your pets have safely weathered a disaster, it is important to keep extra care and attention to your pets. Even once you arrive back home, familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and your pet could easily become confused or lost. It is best to leash your pets when they go outside and maintain close contact. Remember that there still may be hazards at ground level like downed power lines or flooding. Be sure to also monitor the behavior of your pet after a disaster. Normally friendly pets can become aggressive, defensive or anti-social after stressful situations like disasters. Like humans, many pets can also experience post-traumatic stress. If you do observe unusual or aggressive behavior from any of your pets post-disaster, send them to a veterinarian immediately and use a muzzle or harness if necessary.
- Pet Plan provides a great outline for how to prepare your pets for disasters, including valuable information about how to incorporate your pets into new and strange environments after the disaster.
- Pets vulnerable to post-traumatic stress, too discusses the reality of post-traumatic stress among pets and outlines ways to identify symptoms of post-trauma in your pets as well as ways to improve your pets mental health.
- The Best Way to Help a Scared Dog or Cat details ways to comfort distraught pets, including pets with anxiety or post-traumatic stress.
- Taking care of the pets in post-disaster Japan discusses the recent disaster in Japan and how taking care of pets after a disaster is an important issue that often affects people’s mental health.
- Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners is a resource pamphlet with great information and checklists about preparing, weathering, and getting through the aftermath of a disaster with your pets.
- Evacuation and Sheltering, and Post-disaster Safety details how to evacuate, shelter, and deal with disaster aftermath, providing helpful tips and ideas for both yourself, your family, and your pets.
- Saving Pets After Katrina discusses the efforts of a variety of organizations and agencies to help care for and find lost pets after a natural disaster. If ever separated from your pets in a disaster, this resource could give some hope.
Caring for Different Types of Animals
Various animals can have radically different methods of care and travel in disaster situations. Birds should be transported in a secure cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a heavy blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before bringing the bird in. Rather than putting water inside the carrier during transportation, it is better to feed them fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Snakes can be transported in pillowcases, but they require more secure housing once you reach an evacuation site. Keeping a water bowl for soaking and a heating pad is also a must. Small mammals require secure carriers with bedding, food bowls, and water bottles. If carrying both cats and dogs, it may be necessary to separate them by crating. Whatever your combination of pets are, find the best and most space-efficient combination of tools to accommodate all their needs.
- General Bird Info. provides a long list of bird care resources, including what to do with your birds in disaster situations, bird first aid, and how to travel with birds.
- Red Cross: Pets and Disaster – Be Prepared outlines what to do with your pets in case of disasters, giving specific information about the finer details of caring for birds, reptiles, and pocket pets in an emergency.
- Check List: Bird Care for Disasters provides a full checklist of how to care for birds during disaster situation, including details food and caging to medication.
- Disaster Tips for Reptiles and Amphibians is an excellent resource for taking care of reptile and amphibians during a disaster, covering everything from food and medication to cages, heat sources, and a variety of other supplies to consider bringing.
- Fish Tanks – Earthquake and Emergency Planning gives helpful ideas in how to plan and care for your fish in situations of disaster, including whether to take your fish with you when evacuating or leave them at home and what steps to take for either choice.
- Travelling with Fish details a full guide of how to travel safely with fish. This proves as a great resource when evacuating and bringing your fish with you.
- Caring for Hamsters and Gerbils provides a general guide on how to care for pocket pets. While not aimed at disaster situations, this resource outlines the needs of pocket pets and what resources you would need if relocating them.
- Traveling with your Hamster gives an excellent guide of how to travel properly with a hamster or pocket pet, including tips on carriers, food, medications, and a suggested emergency kit.