May 5th - May 11th marks Canada’s emergency preparedness week, with May 11 th being set aside specifically as National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. It is important to plan ahead in the event that a wildfire, earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster strikes unexpectedly - and that includes your furry family members too. Although many people have emergency preparedness kits for the humans of the household (click this link if you don’t yet), it is unfortunately all too common that the four-legged members get forgotten until an emergency happens.
What Happens to Families with Pet’s During an Emergency?
Many people believe that they will at least have time to gather the essentials their pets need before they have to leave their homes, but that is often not the case. Natural disasters are unpredictable and uncontrollable events, and emergency evacuation personal must get people to safety incredibly quickly. This means that in many situations all people have time for is to grab a
As an example of how bad things can get during an emergency, we need look no farther than the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons in BC – the two worst in history. These fires caused catastrophic damage as they raged across the province – during the 2017 wildfire season, over 65,000 people were forced from their homes and into emergency shelters. Thousands of pets were then left without care as their distraught owners were forced to leave without the supplies they needed. To
make matter worse, these owners were told that their pets were not allowed inside when they arrived at emergency shelters around the province. During most disasters, space has to be saved for other human evacuees and therefore pets generally have to be boarded elsewhere. If that wasn’t bad enough, scientists state that things are only expected to get worse in the coming years as global warming makes wildfire season longer and more intense each year. Wildfires are also only one of the many types of disasters that could strike BC, so advance preperation is essential.
By this point, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this bad news! Although this all sounds rather bleak, the point is that the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure has never been more relevant. Other then continue to do our part individually to protect our planet, the best way for you and your pets to weather any natural disaster together successfully is by being prepared. Knowing what to do, who to call, where to go, and what
documents and supplies you need to have ready in advance will be an invaluable resource if disaster ever strikes. Even better, you will also be well-positioned to help others in need of assistance during emergency situations - since everything you need to do and gather has already been taken care of.
Step 1 – Build Your Pet’s Emergency Plan
Check for Current and Readable ID Before you start building your emergency kit, first you need to build an emergency plan. The first step of this plan is ensuring that your pets are already wearing current and readable ID tags, and that they are microchipped (make sure that the number is up-to-date and accurate in the
national registry). Disasters can often strike suddenly, and this step will ensure that your pets can make their way back to you should they become lost or separated during the chaos.
Create a List of Places your Pet Can Stay
As we mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that your pet will be able to stay with you, at least initially. If you are forced to evacuate your home on short notice, most emergency shelters for humans do not accept pets (although service animals are allowed), as they must save space for other human evacuees. Although this is distressing to imagine, you can ensure your pet is safe in advance by creating a list of where you can take them, or where you and your pet can go together, if a crisis
occurs. Below is a list of places to consider:
- Local veterinary clinics
- Local boarding facilities/boarding kennels
- Local animal shelters
- Family and friends’ homes – only those that live outside the evacuation area
- Pet friendly hotels in varying distances away from your house. If you want to go the extra mile, it is possible to find out the evacuation routes the local and provincial governments would use to evacuate your town (you can try calling city hall to obtain this information).
Once you know the evacuation route, you can find pet-friendly hotels along that route where it would be possible for you and your pet to stay. Ensure that you then make a list of these hotels names and phone numbers and store this in your emergency kit.
Make a Plan for Other Pets and Livestock
For those with aquariums, small animals, birds, reptiles, and livestock animals such as horses or chickens, a separate plan must be created. It may be impossible to accommodate bringing these animals if you need to evacuate quickly due to their special diets, environmental requirements, and/or sheer size. If you are forced to leave these animals behind, there are a few things you can do to help ensure their survival.
- Do not tie up or restrain these animals as they are more likely to be able to survive if they are able to move around freely. Consider if you should leave your pets’ cages open.
- Give these pets as much food and water as you possibly can before you leave - and leave all your toilet lids up for any indoor pets - they can be surprisingly resourceful!
- Paint your name and cell phone number on your horses’ hooves, your bird’s flight
harness (if they have one), and on your fish and/or reptile tanks. This will ensure that if emergency personal are later allowed into the area to assess the damage, it might be possible for them to call you. If they are able to and have time to call you, you can then ask them to give your animals more food and water if you are not yet allowed to return.
- Create a sign that lists all the animals you have that you think you’d be unlikely to be able to bring. The sign should include the animals’ names, a description of each one, and your name and phone number on a thick and brightly coloured sheet of paper. Keep this in your emergency kit alongside a roll of tape so that you are ready to tape it inside a window near your front door before you leave.
Step 2 – Build your pet’s emergency kit
Now that you have created an emergency kit for your pets, I’m sure you’re wondering what you need to put in it. For a detailed, printable PDF checklist of all the items you need for your CAT or your DOG, click the applicable link. Please keep in mind that each list is for one pet. If you have three cats, you’ll need to pack the entire list of items in triplicate.
Once you look at those lists, you’ll see that one of the items listed is a pet first aid kit. Most pet supply stores have pre-made kits that you can pick up that range in price from $30 – $70, depending on if you want a basic or more advanced version. If you’d rather save some money, and you’re willing to take the time to make your own kit, you could also click on this link to get another checklist of everything you should have in your pet’s first aid kit.
After you’ve built your kit, ensure that you label everything. Sometimes your pet’s supplies may become misplaced in the chaos of them being taken to an emergency shelter for animals, and you may still need all those items when your pet is returned to you. If possible, try to fit your name, your pet’s name, and your phone number somewhere on all of your supplies. This rule is especially important for photos, food, and medications.
Overall, by building your pet’s emergency preparedness kit now, you’ll be protecting your furry friend in the event of an emergency. By telling your friends and family members with pets to take at look at these checklists as well, you’ll also be doing your part to ensure that more animals will be saved from an uncertain future if disaster ever does strike!
– Carly Piatocha, Pet Industry Writer