The looming threat of Hurricane Sandy to much of East Coast should all of us–no matter where we live–how critical is it to prepare to for disasters that may put the animals who share our lives at risk. It’s vitally important to know what would happen if a hurricane, fire, tornado, earthquake, flood, or other natural or human-made disaster were to strike.
Please take a moment now to review these tips and make a plan to keep all your family members safe! The Federal Emergency Management Agency also offers excellent tips, a worksheet, and online courses about disaster preparation for animal guardians.
Before an Emergency Strikes:
- Have an animal emergency kit readily available. The kit should include a harness and leash or carrier, bottled water, food and water bowls, and dry and canned food. If you have a cat, keep litter and a small litter tray ready to go. PETA offers a Rescue Kit to keep in your car that contains a collapsible cardboard carrier, leash, and towel. The kit is helpful if you must grab your animals quickly or if you encounter an animal on the road in need of help, but having a sturdy plastic carrier ready in the event of a disaster could mean the difference between life and death. You will need blankets or sheets to cover carriers and help keep animals calm during transport.
- Make sure that all of your animals wear collars or harnesses with identification. Keep a current photo of your animal companion for identification purposes, just as you would for a child.
- Place an emergency window sticker near your front and back doors and on side windows in case a weather emergency or fire strikes when you are not home. These stickers will alert rescuers to animals in your home who need help. Be sure to note how many and what kind of animals are in the home and where they can be found.
During an Emergency:
- If you are being evacuated, never leave animals behind. There is no way of knowing what may happen to your home while you are away, and you may not be able to return for days or even weeks. Never assume that you will be able to return home soon, despite any assurances to the contrary. Animal companions left behind may become malnourished, dehydrated, or crushed by collapsing walls. They may drown or escape in panic and become lost.
- Know your destination ahead of time. Not all emergency shelters accept animals, but motels in the area will probably accept dogs, cats, and other small animals in an emergency. Keep a list of hotels that always accept companion animals just in case (most Motel 6s accept animals), and be ready to cajole and beg hotels to make exceptions (most loosen ‘no pet’ policies during disasters, thankfully). Offer a “pet deposit” if you can afford it. Include your local animal shelter’s number in your list of emergency numbers—it might be able to provide information during a disaster.
- Place small animals in secure carriers. Dogs should be leashed with harnesses. Take water and food bowls, a towel, your animal’s favorite toy (animals get frightened and stressed, too; it’s important to keep something familiar with them), and enough food for at least a week.
- If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your animal companion. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians, and animal shelters require medical records to make sure that rabies vaccinations are current, so keep copies of these records with your emergency kit.
If Authorities Force You to Leave Your Animal Behind:
- Never turn animals loose outdoors—they can’t survive on “instinct.” Domesticated animals rely on human companions for many things and are totally helpless and vulnerable outside, especially in bad weather. Do not tie animals outside or keep them in a vehicle unattended. Leave them in a secure area inside your home with access to the upper floors (so that they can escape rising floodwaters).
- Leave out at least 10 days’ supply of water. Fill every bowl, pan, and Tupperware container that you have with water, then set them on the floor and on counters; do not leave just one container—it may spill. Fill sinks, too. If your toilet bowl is free of chemical disinfectants, leave the toilet seat up to provide animals with one more source of water, but do not make that the only source.
- Leave out at least 10 days’ supply of dry food. Canned food will go bad quickly.
- If you can’t get to your home, contact a reliable neighbor or friend to check on the animals and get them out, if possible. Provide specific instructions on care.
By planning now, you can make sure that all your loved ones weather any storm. Remember, the question isn’t whether a disaster will strike—the question is when.
After you have planned for your animal companions, consider supporting PETA to help us continue our work to protect animals from disasters by placing disaster-preparedness public service announcements, issuing advisories to residents in areas where dangerous weather is about to hit, and facilitating hands-on rescues.