Pets enrich the lives of individuals and families in more ways than can be counted. In turn, they depend on their owners for their safety and well being. Just as households prepare to take care of family members, it’s important for people with pets or service animals to take steps ahead of time to keep them as safe as possible during a disaster or other emergency. The American Red Cross offers the following tips to help people with pets and service animals prepare for a disaster:
- Assemble a portable emergency preparedness kit for pets. Store items in a sturdy container that can be carried easily (plastic bin, duffle bag), and make sure to include:
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets and service animals safely and ensure they can’t escape.
- Water, food, bowls, cat litter/pan and manual can opener.
- Medications, medical records, first aid kit, and veterinarian’s contact information.
- Current photos of pets in case they get lost.
- Pet beds and toys, if space permits.
- Research locations that could shelter pets in the event evacuations are called for. American Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety regulations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult to find shelter for animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead.
- Contact regional hotels and motels to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency.
- Ask friends, relatives, or others in neighboring areas whether they could shelter pets.
- Ask local animal shelters or veterinarians if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters are caring for the animals they already have so this should be a last resort.
- Keep a list of “pet friendly” places that are located along evacuation routes, including phone numbers.
- If told to evacuate, take your pets with you. If it is not safe for you to remain at home, it is not safe for your pets.
- If an advanced warning is issued, call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for pets. Bring all pets inside in case of sudden evacuation orders.
- Make sure each animals’ vaccinations are up to date and that each is wearing a securely fastened collar with contact information. After evacuating, add the temporary shelter location on the back of the pet’s ID tag.
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds’ feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have photo identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the case or carrier.
- Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
- Evacuations of large animals, such as horses or cattle, should be planned as early as possible. It may be difficult to maneuver large animal transport vehicles in evacuation traffic.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, contact the American Red Cross at (803) 540-1200 or visit www.columbiaregionredcross.org.