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How to care for pets in time of disaster

Shelter from the storm: How to care for pets in time of disaster

Disasters come in many forms and can strike at any time. With over 358 million pets residing in 60 percent of American households, it is essential that disaster plans include pets. The paramount importance of providing for the evacuation and sheltering of pets during a disaster was made apparent by those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In Oct. 2006, a new federal law was passed requiring state disaster plans to include provisions for household animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency, if the state is to be eligible for FEMA grants. To facilitate the development of plans, FoA has created “Animal Disaster Plans of U.S. States,” available online. It shows, in easy-to-read terms, the status of state preparations, complete with copies of all available plans.

FoA also recommends that you create an individual or family disaster plan, since the best way to protect your pets is to be prepared. Different disasters require different responses. If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, earthquakes, or floods, you must determine how to make your home a safe haven. In the event of disasters such as hurricanes or hazardous spills, you may have to evacuate your home. The most important thing you can do to protect your pets is evacuate them, too. Leaving them behind will most likely cause them to become injured, lost, or worse. To make sure you can properly take care of your pets during any disaster, you must plan ahead.

Check list for a Family Disaster Plan for Pets

If you must stay in your home:

1. Bring pets indoors at the first sign of a disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.

2. Get a “Rescue Alert” sticker. This sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is clearly visible to rescue workers, and that it includes 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number.

3. Decide well in advance which rooms in your home are the safest. Rooms without windows are advisable because of the hazards of flying debris. Access to a supply of fresh water is important. Fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have enough water in case of a disaster.

4. In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.

If you must evacuate:

1. Plan your evacuation route and call ahead to find out which shelters accept pets. Ask your local emergency management agency or animal shelter, and include their numbers in your list of emergency contacts.

2. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet's ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet's name, your name and contact information on your pet's carrier. Consider microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted in the animal's shoulder area, and can be read by scanner at most animal shelters.

3. Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit that could be easily deployed and should include:

· Pet food and water for at least five days

· Disposable litter trays

· Pet feeding dishes, pet beds and toys

· Extra harness and leash (Note: harnesses are recommended for safety and security)

· A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet

· Flashlight and blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)

· Recent photos of your pets (in case you become separated and need to make "Lost" posters)

· Disposable garbage bags for clean-up