Consider Pets During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

As a child of the Great Plains, the most terrifying image in the motion picture, “The Wizard of Oz,” was not the flying monkeys or the Wicked Witch of the West, but rather a character that appeared briefly, and terrifyingly, in the first part of the film…the tornado.

For years, that image, plus the thought of Dorothy and Toto attempting to make it home ahead of the storm, haunted my thoughts and became the stuff of nightmares. Even today, nothing sends a chill up my spine faster than the wail of a tornado siren.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to watch the weather and make action plans. That includes not only my human family, but my four-legged family, too.

Our blog has covered disaster preparedness on several occasions, but I think tornadoes (and fires) are among the scariest to plan for as they offer little warning and require fast action. As tornado season is right around the corner, let’s focus on the importance of a plan. March 15-21 is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Here are some tips to help you be prepared should disaster strike.

First and foremost, make sure your dogs and cats are properly identified. Collars with I.D. tags are recommended, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have them microchipped as well. Should you and your pets become separated in an emergency, it may be the only way to ensure that you are reunited.

Second, if bad weather is predicted, bring your pets indoors. It’s not safe for you to be outdoors during a tornado (did you know that tornadoes can spread debris as far as 10 miles from its epicenter?), nor is it safe for your pets. Pets left outdoors to fend for themselves are likely to be killed or injured and, if familiar landmarks and buildings are damaged or destroyed, they are likely to be disoriented and lost.

Next, designate a shelter area in your home for your family members (including your pets). Practice tornado drills with all family members and make sure to gather your pets and accustom them to the safety area. This may involve leashing your dogs and/or kenneling smaller dogs or cats in a pet carrier. Remember to lavish them with treats afterward so they associate this “emergency” training as a “good thing” and they will be easier to handle in a real emergency.

When you are stocking your safe room with emergency supplies (flashlight, water, non-perishable food items, First Aid kit, radio, etc.), don’t forget to include pet supplies, such as food, water (and a collapsible water bowl), cat litter or dog training pads. If any family member (human or animal) takes medications, make sure to have them on hand, too. Calming collars and calming sprays or diffusers could help during and after a stressful situation. Maybe even keep a dog toy with calming drops on hand to give your dog something to focus his attention on.

Should your home become damaged and you have to evacuate, have a plan in place for your pets. Do not leave them behind!

Check in advance to see if local veterinarians can temporarily shelter animals and contact friends or relatives who are willing or able to keep your pets if you must move into a temporary shelter. (Most emergency shelters will not accept any pets unless they are service animals.) You will want to contact motels outside of your immediate area to see if they accept pets and on what condition(s); likewise, check with your local animal shelter to see if they provide temporary foster care. (As shelters are often inundated after disasters with lost or homeless pets, this should be your last option.)

Tornadoes strike with little warning. Keep all the members of your family safe with a little research and pre-planning. Remember: property is replaceable, but loved ones are not!

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