If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. Unfortunately, animals are also affected by disaster.

The likelihood that you and your animals will survive a disaster such as a fire, flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on the emergency planning you do today. Some of the things you can do to prepare, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.

Guidelines for Pets

The following are things you should do before a disaster hits so that you are prepared in an emergency.

  • Pack a “pet survival” kit that could be easily taken with you if disaster hits. Include things like pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, manual can opener, food dishes, first aid kit and other supplies.
  • Identify shelter in case of evacuation. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets, so plan in advance for alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets. There are also a number of guides that list hotels and motels that permit pets and could serve as a starting point. You can also consider loved ones or friends outside your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
    • Some animal shelters will provide temporary foster care for owned pets in times of disaster, but this should be considered only as a last resort.
  • Include your local animal shelter’s number in your list of emergency numbers. The shelter might be able to provide information about caring for pets during a disaster.
  • Make sure identification tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, the tag is its ticket home.
  • Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness for your pet so that if it panics, it can’t escape.
  • Make a backup emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.

Shelter and Protect Your Pet During a Disaster

Take the following steps to prepare to shelter and protect your pet when a disaster strikes:

  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.
  • Bring your pets inside immediately. Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
  • Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes. Feed your pets moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
  • Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
  • In an emergency, you may have to take your birds with you. Talk with your veterinarian or local pet store about special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given. Make sure that the bird is caged and the cage is covered by a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.
  • If you must evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Leaving your pets at home alone can place them in great danger—pets most likely cannot survive on their own, and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return. Either take them with you, or arrange alternate shelter for them. If you bring your pets with you when you evacuate, remember to take your pet survival kit too, in case supplies are not available later.
  • If you have no alternative but to leave your pets at home, take precautions. Confine them to a safe area inside—NEVER leave your pet chained outside! Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water. Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink. Place a notice outside in a visible area, advising neighbors and emergency personnel what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached, as well as the name and number of your vet.
  • If you evacuate and are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located. Be sure to research some outside your local area in case local facilities close.
    • Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current. Include copies in your pet survival kit, along with a photo of your pet.

Guidelines for Large Animals

If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, here’s how you can prepare them before a disaster.

  • Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
  • Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
  • Make sure vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal are available. Also, make available experienced handlers and drivers.
    • Note: It is best to allow animals a chance to become accustomed to vehicular travel so they are less frightened and easier to move.
  • Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
  • If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.

Cold Weather Guidelines

When temperatures plunge below zero, livestock producers and owners of large animals need to give extra attention to their animals. Blizzards or extended periods of below-zero temperatures can threaten the lives of your animals. Prevention is the key to dealing with hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries to livestock.

Make sure your livestock has the following to help prevent cold-weather problems:

  • Shelter
  • Plenty of dry bedding to insulate vulnerable udders, genitals and legs from the frozen ground and frigid winds
  • Windbreaks to stay safe from frigid conditions
  • Plenty of food and water

Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

Animals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on emergency preparedness, please contact 3000 Insurance Group at (405) 521-1600 or 3000insurancegroup.com today.

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