K-State veterinarian says make arrangements for pets in family emergency plans
Don't forget about pets when making your family's emergency preparedness plans, recommends a Kansas State University veterinarian.
MANHATTAN — Severe weather season is approaching and Susan Nelson, veterinarian and clinical professor at the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, says to include pets in your family emergency preparedness plans.
"Pets should never be left at home during an emergency evacuation," Nelson said. "Creating a disaster plan for your pet entails the same steps taken to make your family plan."
Nelson recommends the following when formulating your preparedness plans:
• Know what disasters could happen in your area. The type of disaster will dictate if you can shelter at home or if you will need to leave your home and find shelter elsewhere. In Kansas, disasters can include but are not limited to blizzards, ice storms, fires, floods, nuclear accidents, tornados, earthquakes and chemical spills.
"If you do need to leave your home, be aware that not all public shelters or hotels, relatives or friends will allow pets, so have several alternatives," Nelson said.
• As part of your plan, develop a checklist and make a pet evacuation kit. Nelson said to consider how you will actually transport your pets — on a leash or in a sturdy carrier — and where you will you go, as well as alternative routes to get to your destination as some roads may be impassable or closed.
"You should also have contact numbers for hotels/boarding facilities, relatives and your veterinarian in your kit that are stored in a water-proof bag."
• Include a pet first-aid kit and first-aid guidebook.
• Have food sources ready, such as pop-top cans or small bags of dry food, as well as bottles of water to use for drinking or taking medications. Nelson recommends at least two weeks' worth of medications in your pet evacuation kit and one week of food and water. Rotate all items every few months for freshness.
• Pack photocopies or a USB of medical records in water-proof bags, as well as pictures of you with your pet to provide proof of ownership should you become separated.
• Make sure your pet has some type of identification — collar and tags and/or a microchip — and the information is kept up to date.
• Additional items to include are clean-up supplies, a flashlight, collapsible bowls, spoon, leash, litter and litter box, and small familiar items, such as toys or a blanket, which may help to reduce the stress on your pet.
• Consider using a buddy system with neighbors in case you are not home to evacuate your pet and place a rescue alert sticker on your front window, which indicates how many pets you have inside in case an in-home rescue is necessary.
"If you do evacuate with your pets and have time, write 'EVACUATED' across the sticker on the window," Nelson said.
• Finally, practice your plan. For the best success, Nelson said it is important to teach both cats and dogs to come when called. She also recommends leaving a carrier sitting out so the sight of it does not scare off a pet, especially cats. You may even want to feed pets in their carrier to teach them it is a safe place.
"Know where your emergency kit is for quick access and see how long it takes to get everyone together and out of the house," Nelson said. "Nobody wants to encounter a disaster, but being prepared will help mitigate some of the stress that can be experienced by you and your pets."
Nelson said that while many of these tips are relevant to other pets besides cats and dogs, more specific needs for birds, exotic pets, pocket pets, horses and livestock must be considered as well. For more information on how to prepare for animals for severe weather and other disasters, including these other species, she suggests checking out these websites: ready.gov, redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/pets, aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness and ebusiness.avma.org/files/productdownloads/STWF_English.pdf.