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Plan Now to Protect Your Pet in a Natural Disaster

By: American Humane

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As a hurricane approaches land, residents are advised to evacuate. Many people, however, do not heed the warning-not because they want to risk their lives and be "thrill seekers," but because they are worried about their pets.

Most communities aren't prepared to handle the evacuation of pets, and emergency shelters often won't accept animals unless they assist the disabled. If people can't take their pets with them, they either have to risk their own lives by remaining with them during the disaster, or leave them behind.

And hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornados, and other natural disasters, can leave animals stranded, lost, injured, and in shock. The best thing you can do is plan ahead. These suggestions can help you keep your pet out of harm's way or make sure you are reunited with your pet should you become separated.

Before Disaster Strikes

  • Keep your pet properly fitted with a collar and current ID and rabies tag at all times. Local phone lines are often out of service during a disaster, so consider adding a tag with an out-of-area phone number. Tag all carriers and cages, too.

  • Purchase a leash and a portable pet carrier for each pet. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.

  • In case you and your pet are separated during a disaster, make sure you have proof of ownership, such as a health certificate and photos of your pet.

  • List friends and relatives who could care for your pet for an extended period of time if you lose your home.

  • Create a list of boarding facilities within a 100-mile radius of your home. Identify nearby hotels that accept pets.

  • Ask your local animal shelter if they have an evacuation plan for animals, and if they would be able to care for your specific type of pet (guinea pigs, birds, reptiles, etc.) during an emergency.

  • Keep your pet's vaccinations up-to-date and a copy of their health certificate on hand in case you have to board your pet or leave the state.

  • Create a list of neighbors or organizations within a 100-mile radius of your home that would be willing to board your livestock if you need to evacuate. Make sure you have access to horse and livestock trailers to transport your animals.

  • Have an evacuation plan in place involving family members and neighbors to help animals in barns and outlying buildings.

  • Have a supply of feed at a separate location that could be dropped by air if the animals become stranded.

  • Make up a kit with leads, halters, equine and bovine first aid kits, and quieting hoods for easy transport.

    Threat of a Disaster

  • Purchase a week's worth of emergency supplies – food, bottled water, cat litter, bedding materials, or medication your pet takes.

  • Difficult or dangerous animals, such as snakes or reptiles, should be kept in special cages to reduce the possibility of them getting loose. Keep a hot water bottle or some type of non-electrical heating element ready to keep reptiles warm.

  • If you are not asked to evacuate, survey your home for the best location to place your pets during an emergency. Keep them away from windows. Basements are often not good locations in areas where flooding can occur.

  • If you have to evacuate, take your pet with you. If the area is unsafe for you to remain, then it is unsafe for your pet as well.

    After a Disaster

  • If you are looking for your animal after a disaster, contact the local shelter or AH to see what emergency procedures are in effect.

  • If your pet was left behind, let your local shelter or AH know so that rescue arrangements can be made. Be prepared to provide a photo ID of the pet, so that animal rescuers can be on the lookout for him.

  • Offer to help others if you can. If your home is not affected by the disaster, and you have the room, you could offer to help the local shelter by fostering a few animals in your home until they can be reunited with their owners.

    The American Humane Association's Animal Emergency Services

    The American Humane Association's Animal Emergency Services cares for animals during disasters and reunites them with their families, often working in collaboration with local animal welfare agencies; local, state, and national emergency response teams; and national relief organizations. Volunteer Animal Emergency Services responders are specially trained to provide for animal needs in crisis situations like wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and blizzards, as well as human-caused catastrophes, such as terrorist attacks. In recent years, the American Humane Association's Animal Emergency Services has helped thousands of animals during devastating wildfires in California, Colorado, Arizona, and the Florida hurricanes.

    About American Humane

    Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the nation's only organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Through a network of child and animal welfare and protection agencies and individuals, American Humane develops policies, legislation, curriculum, and trainings to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The nonprofit membership organization, headquartered in Denver, raises awareness about The Link® between animal abuse and other forms of violence, as well as the benefits derived from the human and animal bond. American Humane's regional office in Los Angeles is the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed..."® End Credit Disclaimer on TV and film productions, and American Humane's office in Washington, DC, is an advocate for child- and animal-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels. Visit www.americanhumane.org to learn more.

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