September is National Preparedness Month and the Cooperative Extension Service, through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), is a partner in this third annual campaign. EDEN connects state and local Extension offices to expert materials in disaster preparedness, recovery, response and mitigation from almost every land-grant college and university in the country.
Dr. Sonja Koukel
While there is a lot of information for protecting your family, from children to seniors, we can't ignore the safety of our pets. Who doesn't remember the heartbreak of Katrina when pets were left behind to fend for themselves? While we can't determine whether our pets will be evacuated with us in a true emergency, we can make a plan for their safety if evacuation is necessary.
There are many agencies and organizations that provide guides to disaster preparedness for pet owners. Information is available through the American Red Cross, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), Department of Homeland Security (www.ready.gov), the EDEN Web site (www.EDEN.lsu.edu), and your local Humane Society. In addition, your local emergency management, law enforcement, library, and/or Cooperative Extension Service office may help you find information.
The American Red Cross provides emergency preparedness brochures and sells pet first aid kits. A pet first aid class that includes pet CPR is also offered. In Juneau, there is an upcoming class scheduled for October 2, 2007. For information call, 463-5713.
The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan should include your pets. Spend time during the month of September to take some steps to prepare yourself for the most likely disasters that could affect you, your family, and your pets. Being prepared can save lives.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends that if you evacuate your home, you do not leave your pets behind. Pets most likely cannot survive on their own; and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return home.
Chava Lee, Executive Director of the Gastineau Humane Society, provided valuable information regarding pets and disaster. According to Lee, there are two factors that are most important in protecting your pets during an emergency:
Make certain that pets have identification tags that are up to date. Tags should include the owner's address and phone number. It's a good idea to include a cell phone number or an alternative number, as you may not be home to receive information about a lost pet.
Cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits and other small pets can be microchipped. Call the Gastineau Humane Society for information regarding microchipping clinics, 789-0260. Birds should be banded. For horse owners, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health has published guidelines available at www.in.gov/boah/pdfs/HorseSAVE.pdf
Make sure you have a secure pet carrier of a suitable size and a leash or harness for your pet so that if he panics, he can't escape. Lee cautions that the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Crating cats can be challenging. Have you ever tried to put a cat in a carrier when she didn't want to go? Lee suggests using a pillowcase for transporting cats safely. Small animal carriers, rather than cages, are best for transporting birds.
Have a safe place to take your pets. The most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you. In the Juneau area, there are hotels that will allow pets during emergency situations. Call hotels in your area and keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, along with other disaster information and supplies.
In the event of a true emergency, the Gastineau Humane Society is equipped to provide temporary shelter. Assemble a portable pet disaster supplies kit.
The basic kit might include:
Pet carrier for each pet.
Supply of food and water for at least three days.
Nonspill food and water bowls.
Toys and treats.
Current photos of each pet.
Medications and dosing instructions; vaccination and medical records.
For cats, cat litter and shoebox-sized litterpan. For dogs, plastic bags for cleaning up after your pet.
Leashes or harnesses. Plan ahead by training your pet on a leash/harness.First aid safety kit. Useful items include bandaging materials to cover wounds, animal antiseptic ointment, clippers, latex gloves, and tweezers.