Preparing for the Worst: An Evacuation Guide for Pet Parents

Wild weather and catastrophic disasters seem to be the new normal, often bringing with them such force and destruction that they've prompted a new word to enter our vocabularies: Superstorm. A potentially deadly natural disaster is a real threat for every region of the country. 
Images of people rescued in boats or by helicopter in treacherous conditions while trying to hang onto a beloved dog or precious cat tug at our hearts, and underscore the need for some serious pre-planning. Having a Pet Evacuation Kit already prepared can save lives when fleeing a storm’s vicious wrath.

If you don't have a Pet Evacuation Kit prepared, the time to do it is now. The bare-bones kit should include:

  1. The pet’s collar and tags. Carry a photo of your pet to leave with shelter staff or volunteer centers, and keep one with you.
     
  2. Veterinary information, as well as vaccination records. This helps prove ownership of your dog, cat, bird or pocket pet should you get separated.

     
  3. Food and medicine for your pet. Bring two gallons of water as well.

     
  4. A sturdy crate that is collapsible for easy transportation. If kitty has never been in a crate, cramming her in while attempting to flee a disaster will be a high-stress situation for both of you. Practice beforehand with yummy treats and catnip toys stashed in the back to make the crate look like fun. Find a detailed Pet Evacuation Kit list from the ASPCA.

Now that you know what to take, determine a couple of places you can go. Lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina spurred Congress into passing the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) act. Cities, states and counties applying for FEMA aid must have plans in place to shelter people and their pets. Check your local animal shelter for help and contact your state office of Emergency Management

Want to help pets in peril? Many local animal shelters need volunteers before, during and after a disaster. You’ll need to pre-register and go through volunteer training, so don’t wait for skies to darken. As a certified first responder for pets after Hurricane Katrina, it felt great to comfort and treat animals in need. To get certified nationally, check out these training programs from the Humane Society.

If disaster strikes, state and local government sheltering should be your last resort. These entities will be taxed to the max and things will not always run smoothly. Try friends and relatives for a place to go temporarily while danger passes. Offer to shelter them in case they ever need it, too.

You don’t have to be on a barrier island to find yourself in real trouble. Just ask the folks in Vermont after Hurricane Irene flooded their hillsides and the people in Joplin, Missouri, still putting their lives back together after an F-5 tornado ripped through. After the storm passes, good pre-planning means your pet will be there to help comfort you. Homes can be rebuilt, but lost lives are forever lost.

Have you had to hightail it to safety with your pets? Tell us your story.

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