Thursday, October 25, 2007

Disaster preparedness: Do you have a plan for your pet?

A truck containing volatile chemicals overturns less than a mile from your house, your house catches fire, your home floods or you have to escape tornadic activity. We tend to watch the current California firestorm or the wreckage of Katrina with the assumption that this could never happen to us. The truth is that there is a long list of events that could force us to have to evacuate quickly and may prevent us returning home for some time. The ASPCA has compiled a list of things every pet owner should do to be prepared for any such emergency. Many things you may have never considered. Here are a few suggestions of my own: Have a prepared kit that is packed and ready to go or stored in the trunk of your car. This kit should include a collapsible crate or kennel, 7 days of food and water (if dry the food must be rotated every two months or per manufacturer recommendations), an emergency medical pet kit and guide book, bowls, leashes, extra collar or harness, tie out lead, a blanket and a muzzle (fear or injury can often panic even the best natured pet), one to two weeks of any medicines the pet requires, toys, litter and basic supplies, photocopies of your pet records and recent photos of your pet (for posters if lost.) Have your pet micro chipped!!! This is the best way to insure you will get your pet back if separated. Also have an ID tag on the collar that includes the pets name, your phone number and your vet's phone number. If you do not own a car, have a transportation plan in place. Even though many cabs in urban areas are pet friendly, the cab may not be able to get to you. Identify a few neighbors or friends, who would be willing to help you with transport in an emergency. Have a list of those phone numbers in addition to pet friendly cabs, your vet's phone number and your cities Office of Emergency Management number (in case alternate transport is not available.) Maintain a land phone at your home and a white page listing. Reverse 911 calls are commonly used to alert citizens who must evacuate. Cell numbers will not be contacted. If you have an unlisted number or refuse to maintain a land line, develop a call network with your neighbors, but keep in mind they may be scrambling too and forget to call. Block Clubs or neighborhood watch groups can be a very effective tool to maintain a phone database for emergencies. On October 6th, 2006, The Pet's Act was signed by President Bush. The Pets Act, Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include in their evacuation plans how they will accommodate household pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster. Read more about the PETS ACT here. This is encouraging legislation, but it would be a mistake to assume that most cities, shelters and disaster teams are fully prepared for the volume of family pets they would have to deal with in a full scale disaster. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Have a plan in place.

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