By definition an emergency is a serious, unexpected, unsafe event requiring immediate action. A large number of emergencies each year are weather related. In this part of the country winter blizzards, severe thunder storms, flooding, long extreme heat waves, hurricanes and even small tornados can occur with little warning. These storms and their after effects can pose a threat to your safety and to that of your pet. New Englanders are a hearty bunch and we pride ourselves on being self-sufficient. Most of us have a family emergency plan in place and keep emergency supplies on hand. It is important to include your pets in your emergency plan as well. Our animal companions enrich our lives in countless ways and they depend on us to keep them safe and healthy. Waiting until a weather emergency situation occurs to consider your pet’s needs is foolish. Adhere to the following guidelines and keep your beloved furry friend healthy and safe during and after any adverse weather conditions.
Pet Identification Methods:
Severe storms can be frightening to humans and animals alike. An animal’s first instinct when frightened is to run and hide. Even the best trained, well behaved pet can become panic stricken and get away from you when confronted with a frightening storm. An up-to-date ID securely fastened to your pet’s collar will help to reunite you with your canine companion if you lose each other. If possible include your cell phone number or the number of your vet on the pet’s tag. Many vets recommend microchips that enable rescuers to identify animals even if they have become separated from their collars and ID tags. Be aware that an average Good Samaritan finding your pet does not have the means to scan a chip. Both forms of ID will cover all bases.
Emergency Packet for Your Pet:
Keep on hand an easily accessible emergency packet in a waterproof container containing a second set of your pet’s ID information, a current photo of the pet, a list of emergency contact phone numbers including yourself, your vet and trusted relatives, friends or neighbors who are familiar with your pet and would be willing to step in to provide temporary care. If needed include a list of medical conditions, medications, vet records and proof of vaccinations. In case of evacuation take this packet with you. Many shelters will not admit pets without proof of good health.
Early Action Prevents Problems for Your Pet:
At the first hint of a storm approaching, immediately bring your pets inside. Under no circumstances should a pet be left tied outside during a storm. If you are at work or at a distance away from your home when a sudden storm occurs call a neighbor to check on your pet and ensure its safety until you return home. Pre-plan and have a reciprocal agreement with neighbors or friends to care for each other’s pets in an emergency. Place a Rescue Alert sticker on or near your front door in case the designated caregiver cannot reach your home. This sticker provides information regarding the number of pets in the home and a phone number for your vet. Search and rescue personnel will immediately know there are pets in the home to be rescued. If you are evacuated put an X through the sticker to let rescuers know your pets have been evacuated with you. This saves time and effort on the part of the searchers. These stickers are available at no cost online at www.aspca.org.
Prepare an Emergency Kit for Your Pet:
A severe storm can leave you stranded for days. An emergency kit for your pet should include food and water for 5 to 7 days, feeding dishes or bowls, a manual can opener, any needed medications, dog grooming items, toys, a blanket, first aid items, plastic trash bags, paper towels, a carrier, a leash or a harness. Importantly, include the emergency packet recommended above. Check this kit every couple of months to be sure food or medications have not become outdated. This kit can be taken with you if you are required to evacuate.
An Evacuation Plan is a Must:
In a worst case scenario you may be required to evacuate by first responder personnel. Take your pet with you. It is unsafe to leave a pet home alone during a strong storm. Be aware that many emergency shelters including Red Cross shelters do not accept pets unless they are service dogs. Plan beforehand and call your local animal shelter for names of facilities in your local area that will board pets in an emergency. If you want to keep your pet with you make a list of local hotels and motels that are pet friendly. Some web sites to help you find pet friendly lodging include www.pet-friendly-hotels.com, www.pets-allowed-hotels.com or www.dogfriendly.com. Call and make your reservations early as many pet friendly lodging facilities tend to fill up quickly. Have a plan B ready in case your first choice is full. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is required to provide evacuation information for pet owners. You can find this information at www.Ready.gov/animals under the heading Pet and Animal Emergency Planning. Additional reliable, helpful information can be found at www.RedRover.org. Red Rover responders shelter and care for animals displaced by natural disasters. If you need sheltering assistance call Red Rover at 800-440-3277.
Comforting Your Pet During an Emergency:
Expect unusual behavior from your pet during and after a severe storm. New and frightening situations can be overwhelming for an animal. You may find your pet cowering or trying to hide. Some extra attention and soothing words can help. Stay close and offer some extra hugs. Some vets and pet owners recommend swaddling with snug shirts which comes in all sizes to fit any pet. They wrap tightly around a pets torso and keeps them calm. Reviews for this product are very positive. Keep your pet safely leashed when you go outside following a storm. They will be confronted with different smells and likely altered terrain. There may also be downed power lines, sharp objects or broken glass on the ground, or snakes, rodents, small wild animals or insects that have been displaced. Return to your usual routine as soon as possible and your pet will soon be back to normal.
Be prepared. Include your pet in your family’s emergency plan and be ensured that your beloved pet will be safe, secure and well cared for in a weather related emergency.