Sunday, June 10, 2012

WagN’ into Pet Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared.

"A person who plans for disaster is going to be far more able to safeguard themselves and their animals,” Stacy Moore- Guajardo assistant Emergency Manager, Austin Travis County.

By this point most of us know the hazards that face us in our communities; preparing for the specific hazards is essential. For example if you live on the coast it is important to have an evacuation plan for yourself and your pets.  

Remember if you are asked to evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind.  Pets left behind have very low chances of surviving on their own.   Unfortunately they can be isolated for days or weeks, your home may suddenly be in the path of the disaster, and there is no guarantee that a responder or rescue group can rescue your pet.   If you release your pet, the chances of survival are still slim and they are more vulnerable to disease and death.   Always plan to take your pet with you to a safe location,” Jennifer Hawes District Coordinator, Houston, Texas Division of Emergency Management.

For example the wildfires that occurred this time last year, numerous pets were lost in the fires. A young couple entered a local evacuation shelter for fire victims. Both Veterans who recently returned from Iraq, the couple was distraught. They had left their home to get supplies in case they had to evacuate, by the time they returned home the fire had jumped and their home was on fire.  They watched helpless as their home with all of their pets in it burned to the ground. The young lady tears streaming down her face said, “I could hear my babies (pets) crying as they burned.” This heartbreaking story serves as a grim reminder that preparedness can save lives.

After Katarina the PETS Act was created to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.  This act ensures that pets are included in Federal, State, and Local Emergency Management plans.  It also provides another layer of protection for individuals and their pets allowing for the evacuation of pets with their owners.

“It is important to check with your local jurisdiction about their plans to help evacuate pets,” Ruben Alonzo, Director of State Operations, Texas Military Forces

You may not be able to prevent a disaster from occurring but you can reduce its impact. A little planning can help reduce injuries, loss, and suffering. This applies to your household pet(s), service animal(s), and yourself. You are ultimately responsible for the survival and well-being of your household pets and service animals. You should have an emergency response plan and readily accessible kits with provisions for family members, household pet(s), and service animal(s).

One of the most important disaster preparedness steps is to assemble a disaster kit (or Go-Kit) containing basic necessities and important information. The kit should include information and items you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate. Remember to:
  • Store your disaster kit in an area where it can easily be retrieved.
  • Check the contents of the disaster kit twice a year when the clocks change for daylight savings.
  • Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.

Your go kit should include:
  • Food, water, and bowls for each pet. (Keep a 3-day supply for evacuations, and a 2-week supply for sheltering-in-place at home.)
  • Paper towels, plastic bags, and spray disinfectant for animal waste cleanup.
  • Extra collars and tags, harnesses, and leashes for all pets (including cats).
  •  A 2-week supply of medication, along with a copy of the current prescription.
  • A recent photo of you with your pet.
  • A crate or traveling carrier large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. Label the crate with your pet’s name, your name, and where you can be reached.
  • First Aid Kit
  • Manual can opener (P-38)
  • Pet comfort items such as blankets and toys
  •  A list of hotels and boarding kennels that accept pets
  • A list of veterinary offices
  •  Detailed instructions for someone else in case you cannot care for your pet
  • Copies of your pet’s medical and vaccination records. Boarding facilities may not accept your pets without proof of health.

“It is important for your pet to be up-to-date on vaccinations. During an evacuation your pet will come in contact with humans as well as other animals. It is crucial for the safety of all involved for immunizations to be current,” Ruben Alonzo, Director of State Operation, Texas Military Forces.
Remember by including your pets in your personal and professional emergency management plans you are Wag’n in the right direction!!