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Disaster Planning for Your Pets

National Pet Preparedness Month is timed for the first month of hurricane season and urges people with pets to make preparations in case they should be hit by a disaster...and that includes making plans for what to do with your dog in case of natural (hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, floods) or manmade (terrorist attacks, power outages, fires, street closures due to traffic accidents, chemical spills, or police activity) disasters. Let's look at ways to be ready in case disaster strikes.

With some disasters such as hurricanes, we have the luxury of being forewarned; with others, we're not so lucky. It's up to us to take care of our dogs as well as ourselves. If the situation is unsafe for you, it's unsafe for your dog. Know what you are going to do and where you are going to go ahead of time so you don't waste time in a panic trying to figure out your next move - and rehearse it in advance just like you did with fire drills in school.

  1. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG. Don't have more animals than you can take with you in one trip because you may not be allowed to return.
  2. Have current identification on your dog - microchips or tattoos are best; collar tags are okay - just make sure he is wearing them.
  3. Have an emergency evacuation kit prepared and near your door so you can grab it quickly. The kit at a minimum should include:
    • Your dog's first aid kit that you have prepared in advance
    • At least 2 weeks' food (manual can opener or flip-top for canned foods), treats, and water and water purification tablets
    • Medical conditions, medications, supplements, dosages and administration instructions
    • Grooming supplies
    • Toys
    • Clean-up supplies including paper towels and poop bags
    • Bedding
    • Extra leash - keep your dog leashed whenever you go outside because everything that was familiar may not be. With the added stress from the disaster, he may run away.
  4. Put paperwork in resealable plastic bags, including:
    • Pre-made lost dog flyers with your cell number
    • Photo and description of your dog in case you are separated
    • Feeding schedule
    • Behavior issues
    • License, vaccination, and other pertinent veterinary records
    • Emergency contact information of out-of-state friends or family
    • List of hotels, shelters, and rescue agencies that will take your dog
  5. Crate train your dog - he will be safer in a crate, and some rescue agencies will not accept him unless he is crated.
  6. Make sure your dog is vaccinated. If you have to drop him off at an emergency shelter or you go to a hotel, he may not be accepted if he is not up to date on his vaccines.
  7. Listen to emergency announcements on the radio or TV and follow them online. Don't rely on your phone because the lines could be down or overwhelmed and emergency responders need clear lines.
  8. If you are not home when disaster strikes, ask a neighbor, family member, or friend whom your dog is familiar with to take care of him. Give them a key and signed permission to come into your home to rescue your dog. Tell them where your evacuation kit is located. Put a "pets alert" sticker on your front door or window.

You may hear that there may be a mandatory evacuation order. You want to be ready before that happens. In fact, why don't you start now? Start to get everything in order now, and hopefully you will never need it.

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