Proper Planning Prevents Potential Problems


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Fires and earthquakes are a way of life in sunny Southern California, just as tornadoes, hurricanes and ice storms are routine in other parts of the country. We all need to be prepared when a disaster unexpectedly strikes, and that means having the items we need to survive, especially if we’re forced outside of our homes for a few days.

Just as you should prepare the essentials in an emergency evacuation kit for yourself, you should prepare an evacuation kit for your pets. Use a plastic tub, backpack or box, something with handles that is easy to pick up and carry.

First, be sure your pets are wearing some type of identification at all times. A collar and tag is the first step to having your lost pet returned home if they separate from you. But microchipping is better, as an updated and registered microchip can’t get lost, won’t fall off or wiggle loose, and is always with your pet.

Next, post a Rescue Alert Sticker in your front window, showing the number of dogs and cats, birds, iguanas, horses—pets of any kind—you have on your property. This will help emergency personnel look for signs of life if you’re not home when a natural disaster occurs. If you are home and you evacuate with your pets, mark across this sticker to show that your pets are with you.

Pet alert stickers such as this can be found at your local pet store.

Arrange for a safe haven, a meeting place for you and family members, and then a location where you can take your pets. Not all human shelters will accept pets, so do your homework ahead of time and have that information available, in addition to knowing the closest 24-hour emergency veterinarian’s office.

Remember, if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. Please, do not leave them behind!

Choose designated caregivers. Just as you would for your young children, select caregivers for your pets, so you can concentrate on the important things that you need in case of a disaster. Have a plan for a friend or neighbor to be your designated caregiver, on call to get your pet if you are away when an emergency happens. Consider including your pet’s designated caregiver in your will or legal trust documents.

Prepare an emergency travel kit that includes medical information about your pet in a waterproof container. Include vital pet medications and rabies and spay/ neuter certificates, as well as at least one extra leash. In an emergency, you do not want to waste valuable time assembling all the necessities. Be thorough and store your pet emergency kit in an easy-to-reach location so you can “grab and go.” Finally, include photos of your pets in case they get lost and you need help looking for them. Most people have pet pictures on their phones, but a printed photo is convenient for making and copying flyers to post about town.

Your travel kit should also include travel bowls, pet bags for cleanup, paper towels, a small litter tray and litter for cat owners, baggies of food, and your animal’s favorite toy or bone. An emergency evacuation will be stressful for your pets, so anything that will make them feel at ease is helpful. Pack enough food for a week and rotate it, serving the oldest food first.

Special considerations should be made for birds, livestock and horses. For horses, set up a buddy system with other horse owners; it could prove life-saving in a disaster. If you have no time to reach other horse owners—say, if fire is threatening your home and there’s no time to transport them— set them free so they have a chance to escape. Keeping them confined could easily lead to a certain death.

Birds need to be transported in travel cages or carriers. Carry a blanket to throw over the cage to reduce stress. Keep a leg band on your birds for identification. Birds need to eat on a daily basis, so have a timed feeder in their emergency kit.

Remember, if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. Please, do not leave them behind!

Lizards can be transported like birds, but you’re better off transporting snakes in a pillow case. Once you reach a safe place, your reptiles will need a terrarium or other safe housing.

Small animals, like hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs, should be transported in secure pet carriers.

Preparation is critical. Be prepared and remember the five P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Potential Problems. Treat your animals as you would your family members … after all, that’s what they are!

Pet Emergency Kit

Your pet evacuation kit should include:

• Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)

• 3 to 7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)

• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)

• Litter or paper toweling

• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant

• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up

• Pet feeding dishes and water bowls

• Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash

• Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)

• At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)

• A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet

• Flashlight

• Blanket

• Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)

• Especially for cats: pet carrier, toys, scoopable litter

• Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.


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