While the title may denote humor, the scenarios that it conjures are anything but humorous. Today, extreme weather conditions have become more prevalent and more intense. Flooding is now occurring in areas never seen before, and wildfires are happening more frequently and engulfing more acreage than ever before. What this means is that more and more people are faced with the need to evacuate with very little preparation. Not only natural disasters necessitate evacuation, but also man-made accidents can cause them as well. Being prepared to evacuate your family is difficult enough, but are you prepared to evacuate with your pets, too?
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it changed the face of evacuation centers across the nation. During that tragedy, we watched story after story as people refused to evacuate their homes because pets had to be left behind. Several people chose to die with their pets rather than leave them. This repeated action forced officials to review shelter policies and pet regulations. Now fifteen years later, many evacuation centers allow pets or separate centers have been established to provide for the admission of pets.
If you know an evacuation is pending, don’t wait until the last minute to leave. Plan ahead. Check your local emergency management website to be sure you can evacuate with your pet or that shelters are prepared to accept pets. Check with motels and hotels outside of your immediate area to see if they accept pets. Ask about size and number restrictions and any additional costs. See if they may waive these fees in emergency situations.
Friends or relatives outside of the area may be able to provide you and your pets with shelter. Check with them before the emergency arises to see if they would be willing to help in such a situation.
Sometimes we know an evacuation declaration may be forthcoming, such as when there is an impending hurricane. Other times, we may have little or no notice and need to gather our family and belongings quickly. Are you prepared to make that sudden escape with your pet? You can be if you take time to prepare ahead and keep your pet’s information regularly updated.
Make sure you have a crate or carrier readily accessible in your home, should you need to leave on short notice. Having it stashed in the garage behind sporting equipment or seldom used tools is not readily accessible. Keep it where you can grab it and go, in emergencies, seconds count. If you have a large dog, get a folding crate. They easily store when folded, take up little space, and come with easy carry handles; they also set up in minutes when you arrive at your destination.
Securely attached to a crate or carrier, in a waterproof pocket, should be all necessary documentation pertaining to your pet. This includes:
- Pet’s name, breed, age, and weight. Include clear, close-up photos of your pet from different angles – side view, head shots, standing and sitting. Include your veterinarian’s name, address, and phone number.
- Pet’s personality information. For example, fearful but not aggressive; doesn’t like other dogs; kennel shy; loves cats; loves children, etc. This information will be extremely helpful to any personnel who may need to care for your pet.
- Pet’s feeding information. Indicate the brand of food fed and the quantity and frequency of feeding.
- Pet’s medical information, if any. Include the name and dosage for medications. Be sure to include any supplements your pet may be taking and the dosage of those.
- Immunization records, especially those for rabies, as well as the usual communicable diseases. If you Titer test in lieu of vaccinations, but sure to include that documentation.
- Spare leash. You don’t want to waste precious time searching for a leash when you need to leave in a hurry. Even if your dog is perfectly obedient off leash, you need to include a leash. Evacuations are extremely stressful, and your dog may not behave as usual under those extreme conditions.
With the wonders of modern technology, all this information can and should be stored in your phone as well. There, it can be easily accessed, updated when necessary, and printed out if needed.
Keep at least 5 days’ supply of food, water, and medications on hand in addition to what you normally have on hand to care for your pet. For most people, keeping a supply of extra food and medication is understandable, but many people don’t realize that a change in water can upset your pet’s digestive system. Keeping an ample supply of bottled water handy in the event you need to leave suddenly will help both you and your pet. Be sure to rotate these items out regularly so they do not expire. Everything should be ready to pick up and go.
Evacuations are stressful and confusing and sometimes, no matter how well prepared, you still may be separated from your beloved pet. Getting reunited will be dependent upon well-documented identification. Make sure your dog has a tag on his collar with the dog’s name, your name, address, and phone number. It is even better if your dog is microchipped.
The microchip contains that valuable information and can be scanned by any shelter, veterinary clinic, or pet store with a scanner should you be separated from your pet. Many areas provide you with the ability to have a lifetime license linked to an issued tattoo number for your dog. If your state or county provides that, it is well worth the expense and effort to have that done. You pay for the license only once and it is good for the life of your dog.
The tattoo can easily be added to your dog during the spaying or neutering process. Remember to update the chip or license information if you move or change phone numbers. It is good to have both a collar identification tag and a microchip, and if you also can have a tattoo so much the better. There is no such thing as too much identification.
Have a recent picture of your pet and a verbal description to accompany it. Don’t just describe the dog as black. It is much better to have a picture and a description that says, “The dog is black with a white front left paw and white tip on his tail.” Then verify that description with photos showing those identifiers. Any well described identifier verified with a photo is invaluable for locating your dog should you become separated. Note any lipomas, growths, or scars and photograph those as well. The more information you provide the better your chances are of being reunited with your pet. Again, storing this information in your phone makes it easily accessible and helps to provide proof of ownership.
Something many people forget to consider is they could be stranded away from home and unable to return. People in the medical profession may be forced to remain at the hospital overnight, icy roads could keep one from returning home, or one could be involved in an accident or have a medical emergency that places them in the hospital. Find a trusted friend or family member who is willing go into your home and tend to your pet, should you be unable to get home. Have these plans in place before the emergency arrives and be sure the care provider has a key.
Life is unpredictable and no one wants an evacuation to force them from their home. While it is easy to become complacent and think, “I don’t live in an area where I need to worry about such occurrences,” the truth is it can happen anywhere, anytime, for reasons you may never think about. Being prepared for such a catastrophe is your best defense for coping and keeping your pet safe, and that will help to ensure that your pet continues to have a healthy and happy life with you and your family.