When the earth shakes, the wind blows or the home is filled with the smell of smoke, most people automatically shift into the self-preservation mode and scramble to preserve their lives and the lives of others in the family. Those who plan ahead and develop contingencies for such emergency situations generally fare better than those who do not. Professionals in the emergency disaster relief field promote emergency evacuation plans for people, because they work.
But what about an emergency plan for our pets? They are family members too. Shouldn't our plans for emergency evacuation include them as well? Thousands of trusting, devoted pets are lost each year due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires, simply because their people did not have an emergency plan that included them.
With proper planning, many losses and much heartache can be avoided. Having an emergency evacuation plan in place that includes the family pet does not require a lot of effort. It is a task that is very easy to accomplish. The following information and tips are provided to help you develop such a plan.
• Never leave your pet behind unless circumstances absolutely prevent you from taking them. For instance, if the house is crumbling beneath your feet during an earthquake and you can't find the cat, you probably should get yourself and your family to safety first and then, if safe, return to find the cat later. The chances are that a cat or dog will manage to exit the house on their own accord in such a situation, because they don't want to be there either.
In a situation where there is time to plan your evacuation however, such as an approaching fire-line or hurricane, pets should not be left behind. Their lives are as vulnerable to these threats as humans and they need to be protected. Even if they manage to survive, the chance of them running off and not being found is extremely high. If they are found, it will probably be animal control and in the aftermath of a natural disaster, efforts for reuniting pets with their people are not high on the agenda.
• Do not book your pet into a local kennel or temporary shelter unless local authorities determine the shelter will withstand the impending danger. If the facility is in the path of destruction, boarding your pet there will not remove the danger to them. You will probably find that local shelters and kennels will be closed and not accepting business anyway. Additionally, kennels in neighboring towns that are not in harm's way will probably run out of vacancies very quickly.
The best idea is to check with your local shelter or chapter of the SPCA long before the need arises. They may already have all the information you need.
In the absence of having such information, it is suggested that you keep your pet(s) with you. Recently there has been a awakening in the motel/hotel industry to the importance of pets to potential customers and more and more establishments are making provisions for animals. It should be relatively easy to find a motel that will accept your pet for very little additional expense.
• Ensure that your pet's vaccines are up to date and have that paperwork in a place where you can find it quickly if the need to evacuate arises. If your evacuation occurs during the time the disaster is taking place (i.e. the beginning of a hurricane, etc.) make sure your pet has a collar and that the required tags are attached. Without meaning any disrespect, it might be a good time to treat your pet like a piece of luggage by adding an information tag to the collar with your contact information and an alternate family member's (outside the endangered zone) contact information. In the event you are separated from your pet, this could be the one factor that ensures you are reunited.
• Some organizations give advice for situations where you have no choice but to leave your pet(s) at home. Except in those where circumstances prevent you from locating your pet and you must leave immediately (i.e. flood waters rising, etc.) such advice does not resonate with this writer. As a member of the family, they have an expectation of being important too. They depend upon you and you can't let them down.
Just a little effort today may save you a lot of heartache tomorrow. Take the time and draft a plan for pet evacuation.