When wildfires devastated parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties in December, hundreds of thousands of people and pets had to evacuate. Many boarders in our area went above and beyond to help animals in need during the crisis. The staff at Cateau Marmont pulled many late nights of checking in cats, and established a special hotline number dedicated to evacuees in need of service. Nearby, the Best Little Cat House in Burbank welcomed an influx of cats and kittens and offered discounted stays to all displaced by the fire. Despite these efforts, boarding homes and shelters quickly filled to capacity and were unable to accommodate the unprecedented amount of animals, leaving many pet owners to care for their pets on their own — on top of ensuring the safety of their family, packing belongings, evacuating and finding places to stay. In the midst of disaster, having to wrangle an easily excitable or nervous pet may add to an already difficult situation.
However, preparing or practicing for an emergency with your pet in tow will train your dog or cat to be more receptive to certain commands when disaster strikes. And having the necessary supplies and resources on hand will make the transition from being in a danger zone to safer territory that much easier.
To help you prepare before the next catastrophe hits, we’ve created this pet preparedness guide with helpful tips to keep your animal safe in the event of an emergency.
Whether you’re dealing with a fire, hurricane, flood or earthquake, if a natural disaster prompts you to evacuate your home, you should always plan to take your pets with you. The general rule of thumb is: If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. With that, it’s important to plan ahead by incorporating your pets into your disaster plan. Here are some ways that you can prepare.
- Collars and tags: Make sure your pet wears a form of identification with up-to-date contact information at all times.
- Microchips: Microchip your pet. In case you and your pet are separated, animals with a microchip can be scanned to determine their identity.
- Vaccinations: Since most boarders and shelters require updated vaccinations in order to reduce the spread of disease, it’s important that your pet is current on all vaccinations.
- Rescue alert sticker: If you are not home or are unable to get to your pet when an emergency strikes, ASPCA offers a free sticker that alerts rescue personnel that you have a pet in your home.
- Practice: Practice transporting your pet and familiarize them with being mobile by placing them in a carrier or taking them on car rides.
Choose Emergency Contacts
Plan for scenarios when you’re not home or unable to gain entry to your home because of damage. Enlist friends, neighbors or pet-sitters as emergency contacts for your pet.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
There’s no telling how long you and your pet will be away from your home, so it’s paramount that, like you, they have the basic necessities to thrive wherever they are. According to The Humane Society and the American Red Cross, a basic pet emergency kit for your pet should contain:
- Food and water for at least five days
- Collapsible food and water bowls
- Medications and medical records
- First-aid kit
- Garbage bags, litter boxes and litter to collect pet waste
- Leashes, harnesses and carriers
- Toys, blankets and sleeping pads
- Pet identification (photos, licenses, etc.)
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems and your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets
Research Lodging Options
Due to health and safety concerns, most hotels and motels don’t allow pets, even in emergency situations. Make sure you have a list handy of animal lodging in the nearest safest city in your area. If lodging isn’t an option, try making arrangements with friends or relatives, animal shelters or your veterinarian’s office.
It’s important to note that lodging can be difficult depending on your animal. Birds, reptiles, rodents and livestock have special considerations for care. For example, horse stables and equestrian centers can fill up quickly if you have limited facilities in your area. If this should occur, make sure you have a contingency plan and emergency supplies to keep your equine safe. Horse trailers can act as temporary lodging when you’re on the move, and parks with horse trails often have corrals for turnouts and access to water.
Plan for Recovery
Life after disaster is not always easy. Depending on the disaster, returning to “normal” may seem impossible, especially if your home is lost completely or severely damaged. It’s important to remember that pets displaced for a prolonged period are also affected and need time to adjust back to normalcy. They may become more aggressive, defensive or skittish. As you’re settling back in or picking up the pieces, keep a watchful eye on your pets and comfort or discipline them when needed. Also, make sure they are leashed when outside so they don’t roam around unsafe or damaged parts of your neighborhood.
For a list of local pet resources, check out Animal Care From Head to Tail.