Rule #1: If it’s not safe for you to stay where you are, it is not safe for your pets! Never leave your pets behind in a disaster.
The Humane Society offers this advice: “If you leave, even if you think you may be gone only for a few hours, take your animals. Once you leave your home, you have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets. And leave early ¿ if you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pets behind.”
Rule #2: Find a safe place that will take your pets long before you need the service!
Most evacuation shelters will not accept pets, so it is up to you to know your options in advance. Check — do not assume that you can show up at a friend’s or family member’s home with a carload of critters and be welcomed. Check with area hotels. Don’t forget to ask if their “no pets” policy would be waived during a disaster; many would. Check with out-of-town boarding facilities, shelters and vets as local groups may fill up quickly or have to evacuate as well. Keep your “pet friendly” accommodations list with your families emergency preparedness kit — yeah, you need one of those too!
Rule #3: Have a pet evacuation kit already assembled, and keep it up to date!
No shelter is going to accept a pet with an out-of-date or unknown vaccination history. It’s unsafe for everyone, especially your pet. This file should include any chronic medical conditions, medications and other pertinent information about your pet. Make sure to have identification securely attached to your pet, as well as a recent photo and description, should you become separated. Sturdy leashes and a carrier large enough for your pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down in is a must. Cages for smaller animals must be escape-proof. Remember to include bedding, bowls, any pet medications and enough food, litter and water for at least three days. Other useful items for your kit include paper towels, newspaper, trash bags and household bleach.
Rule #4: Make arrangements with friends, family or neighbors to help each other should an emergency strike when one of you is not home.
Make sure your pets are well socialized and will go willingly with another person. Write a plan so that everyone knows how to reach one another and designate a meeting place should phone communication be impossible. Include the location of your disaster kits and give a key to your home to someone you trust nearby.
Whether you actually evacuate your home or ride out the storm in place, having a plan will alleviate much of the stress such situations create. Empower yourself by being familiar with your local emergency plans. Being prepared to follow them will make getting through any type of emergency a much safer, saner experience for everyone.