September 7, 2011
In harm's way: K-State veterinarian says plan now how to keep pets safe before disaster strikes
Nearly 900 pets were rescued from Joplin, Mo., after a disastrous tornado tore through the city earlier this year. Several residents who fled to safety had no way out for their furry friends.
With hurricane season now in full swing, a veterinarian at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has advice on how pet owners can be prepared for emergency evacuations without leaving their pets behind.
Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor at K-State's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, said one of the best things pet owners can do is to prepare an emergency kit for pet evacuation. The kit should include food, clean water, necessary medications and first-aid supplies.
To prepare an effective kit, Nelson said pet owners should know what types of disasters are likely to occur in their area. This should also include lesser disasters, such as a house fire, gas leaks or anything with the potential to harm your home.
Other emergency kit items may include flea and tick preventatives, blankets, toys, muzzles, litter, litter pan, newspaper, trash bags, treats and an emergency contact list.
It's important to store emergency items in waterproof containers that can be easily transported. The items should be put in an area away from extreme temperatures, Nelson said. To maintain freshness of products, owners should replace or rotate appropriate items, like food, on occasion.
Caged animals, such as birds, reptiles and pocket pets, should have smaller cages available for transportation purposes along with their emergency kit.
Nelson suggests copies of current vaccines, registration papers, adoption forms, veterinarian contact information and names and doses of medications be kept in a waterproof bag that can be easily located.
"There are organizations that can create pet passports for a nominal fee that have a photo of your pet along with pertinent information," she said.
Since power may not always be available, even in storms that do not prompt an evacuation, Nelson suggests purchasing a generator for in-home sheltering. She said temperature control is important for pets.
"Covering a cage with blankets can help keep out cold drafts," she said. "Be cautious of pets overheating during summer months if ventilation is scarce during high temperatures."
Temporary shelters are often formed after large-scale disasters to harbor pets, but if shelters are not available, owners should be familiar with the locations of boarding facilities and pet-friendly hotels.
If a pet and owner get separated, pet owners should have current photos of their pet and photos of the pet and owner together. Nelson said it will make it easier to reclaim the pet.
"Have your pet wear a collar with an identification tag and have back-up collars and tags in your emergency kit," she said. "Consider having your pet microchipped for permanent identification. That way, if the tag is lost, there is still means of identification."
Nelson said to remember that heightened emotions and nerves can affect pets. Familiar items like blankets and toys can be calming. Pheromone collars for dogs and sprays for cats may also have calming effects.
"Try to stay calm yourself," Nelson said. "Pets can sense their owners' distress. Spend as much one-on-one time with your pets as possible to make them feel secure in an emergency."