When Hurricane Harvey blew it’s way through Houston many animal lovers had the same thought, “I hope the pets are all OK!” We all hope that our lives and communities will be spared from the devastation that come from the Harvey’s, and Katrina’s, and Blizzards of ‘78; but natural disasters will always be a threat and they can occur anywhere. The best thing that we as pet owners and lovers can do for our furry family members is prepare ahead of time so that if the worst does happen we are ready to protect them.

The first thing you can do to prepare for your pet during an emergency is research safe havens. Take an hour or so on the web to find pet friendly hotels outside of your immediate area so that if you need to evacuate quickly you’ll know where to go with your pet. Also, ask a few friends or family members if they could temporarily take your pet in the event of an emergency where you might be unable to go home for days or weeks. That way if you need to go to an emergency shelter that doesn’t accept animals your pet will still be safe. If you are expecting a potential disaster (think Houston in the 2-3 days before Harvey hit) call your veterinarian and see if they are aware of pet friendly emergency shelters that you can go to if the need arises. Remember, never leave your pet behind if you need to evacuate. They could become trapped in a dangerous situation where they cannot get out of the house or they might escape the house and get hurt in the storm. Know where you can go ahead of time and take your pet with you.

The second thing you can do is create an emergency kit for your pet. It’s pretty easy, get an old duffle bag or backpack and put these things inside:

  • Spare leash and collar
  • Copy of vet records in a plastic bag for waterproofing (or on a flash drive)
  • Photos of your pet (in case you get separated)
  • 5-7 days worth of pet food
  • Several bottles of water and a water bowl
  • Toys and a blanket. If you have a bird or small animals you may need some extras like a catch net or salt lick.
  • A pet first aid kit and a week’s worth of any medicines your pet takes

Put these somewhere you can get to them easily along with a carrier or crate and an extra litter pan with litter if you have a cat. Maybe next to your own emergency bag? Switch out the food every couple of months to make sure it doesn’t expire and you’ll be prepared if you need to evacuate in a hurry!

Thirdly, you can prepare your home in a few ways so that if you stay at your house you are able to keep your animals safe with you. If you live in an earthquake prone area you should designate one of the more stable rooms in the home to keep your animal in when threatened by aftershocks, the bathroom for example. If you are home and fear flooding take your animal to the highest room in the house with an escape route (no windowless attics please!) and stay there with them. Finally, you can get emergency decals that stick on an outside window and alert emergency responders to the fact that there are animals in the home.

Finally, there are some preparedness items you may want to incorporate into your home and life without the incentive of a looming emergency. For example, have you designated a permanent caregiver for your pet in case something happens to you? For example, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow my sister is going to take my dog. If you haven’t made arrangements for your pet in case something happens to you think about starting that conversation. You can even add your pet’s plan into your will so that it’s official.

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