Protecting Your Pets from Natural Disasters

Yesterday, a tragic event happened in Oklahoma and through other areas of  “tornado alley” when a tornado as large as two miles wide destroyed homes, communities and most horribly, lives. Living in Nebraska, also located in the area of the country where unpredictable cyclones are a yearly concern, weather has always had the power to scare me. I grew up hearing tornado sirens shreiking and seeing, as we all are now, the horrendous damage these storms are capable of inflicting.

As I grew older, the storms bothered me more, but because I was now responsible for others: my daughter and my pets. All too many times, I remember snatching up a terrified toddler while my husband wrestled with the dogs on a leash and we scrambled into the basement.

Disasters can sometimes be forecast in advance – like hurricanes – or arrive with no warning – like yesterday’s tornadoes. Regardless of where you live, there are disasters that affect your area: wildfires, mudslides, floods, blizzards. The good news is that, with a little advance planning, you can make sure your entire family – furred and otherwise – is ready.

You probably know a lot of the basics for humans: have a plan ready. Have supplies in place. Keep an emergency kit stocked and copies of important papers at hand. When it comes to our pets, some of those same rules apply.

For example, ready.gov suggests that you have at least three days of food and water for your pets at hand.  If your pet requires special medication, keep a supply in a waterproof container.

Make sure that your pet is properly identified. Collars along with identification tags and rabies vaccination tags are essential. If you haven’t already done so, have your pet microchipped. Should your dog or cat lose their collar and end up in a shelter, that microchip can help reunite you.

Make sure you have current photos of your pets in your kit. Should your pet become lost, those photos can help spread the word through posters or electronic websites.

Have pet carriers ready. If you have to evacuate, pet carriers or crates may be the most practical method of transporting your pet. Make sure your name, address and a (cell) phone number are clearly indicated on the crate.  To ease the situation, keep some familiar items at the ready: pet bedding, a favorite toy, or treats. In emergencies, pheromone collars for cats and dogs can help alleviate the stress from storms or travel.

Your emergency plan should include where you plan to go: if you are going to hunker down at home when the tornado sirens sound, plan which room is safest. If you must evacuate your home, have a site picked: a relatives’ home, a hotel, or an evacuation center. If you must evacuate, plan for the worst. You may not be allowed back to your home for days – if not weeks – depending on the severity of the disaster.

To me, some of the most heartbreaking photos from another natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, were the pets left behind to fend for themselves. That’s never a good idea. If you have to leave, take your animals with you. Check in advance to see if there are friends or relatives who can – for a short time – foster your pets if you must flee to a shelter. While some humane societies and animal shelters might be able to foster animals in an emergency, when the event is large scale, they are often overwhelmed just with animals who have become separated from their owners.

Approaching storms still leave me uneasy and fretful. We know animals can be even more sensitive to changes in the weather than humans and can often sense storms approaching. At the first sign of impending bad weather, bring your pets indoors so that they don’t panic or become disoriented. Keep them calm and in a confined area if needed. Remember that they count on you for wise decisions and protection.

While we can’t stop emergencies, we can plan for them. With a little foresight and a little advance planning, you can keep your entire family safe and secure. For those now grappling with the aftermath in Oklahoma and the surrounding areas, our thoughts go out to you.

-Photo Credit: Posted by @MikeJenkinsTV

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