10 Disaster Preparedness Tips for Pet Owners

Blizzards, ice storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires;
disasters can happen anywhere at any time.

I live in Southern California and after having been evacuated more than once for a wildfire, I decided to create a disaster preparedness kit for my family (both humans and pets). These can be used both for evacuating or for those instances when you must shelter in place. Right now I’ll talk just about the one I’ve created for my pets but don’t forget to make one for your human family as well.

Lives Are Important

If time is short and danger immediate, lives are the most important. If you can grab this preparedness kit, great; but if you must go immediately, take only the living beings.

Use Your Phone

Your phone is a valuable tool; even more so than it is right now. Take photos of your pets both from the front and from the side and save the photos to your phone. This way, if you should become separated from your pet you can prove ownership and you can create flyers with photos. Take photos also of any prescriptions your pets need. You also need photos of your dog’s license and your pets’ vaccinations including the rabies vaccinations. Also, in contacts on your phone, have your veterinarian’s information and phone number.

Food, Water and Bowls

Set aside at least enough food for a week. Prior to hurricane Katrina, people were told to have supplies for two to three days. But hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, as well as other disasters, have taught us that recovery can take time. You can store canned or dehydrated food that will be good for a period of time and then rotate it regularly if it isn’t used. Have bottled water stored with the food, as well as several food and water bowls. Don’t forget a manual can opener (or two) as well as spoons.

©istockphoto/ChiehCheng

©istockphoto/ChiehCheng

Create a First Aid Kit

I make one big first aid kit that has supplies for people and pets. If you decide to do this, fine, just make sure you label those things that are just for dogs, or cats, or people. Include gauze pads, bandages, tape, elastic wrap, and first aid ointment. Don’t forget Benadryl(TM), tablets for diarrhea, upset tummy, and headaches. Tools you have should include scissors, tweezers, a thermometer, and other first aid basics. Include any prescription medications needed by your pets.

Include a Crate for Each Pet

Hurricane Katrina also taught us that people will not evacuate if they can’t bring their pets; human lives as well as the lives of many treasured pets were lost so emergency shelters now include space for pets. However, there is usually a restriction that the pet be confined to a crate. I use canvas foldable crates that are light weight, easy to carry, and don’t take up much space. Teach your pet to accept the crate prior to any emergency.

Leashes, Collars and Identification

I have leashes everywhere; in the house, the garage, in my RV, and in my car. I also have some extra leashes in my disaster kit. Although my pets wear collars all the time, I also have extra collars in my kit, too, just in case a collar breaks. The collars have identification tags with my cell phone number because, let’s face it, you can’t identify your pet too much. Anything you do to make it easier for you to identify your pet (here’s where those photos are important) and for volunteers to find you should you and your pet be separated. Microchipping your pet is great but it’s not enough. The microchip is only valuable when someone has a working reader. So yes, microchip your pet but also have identification tags on your pet’s collar or harness.

©istockphoto/Xieyouding

©istockphoto/Xieyouding

Pack Some Basic Grooming Supplies

Disasters are usually messy which means your pet may be filthy, too. Since dogs and cats both groom themselves, if your pet is covered in filth you may need to clean him up so he doesn’t get sick trying to clean himself. Some shampoo (even baby shampoo) can make a huge difference. Include a comb, brush or two, scissors, and other basic supplies.

Some Additional Supplies

You may want to include a blanket or two, several towels, and a few toys. If you’re evacuated, both you and your pets will be bored. A play session will distract you both for a while. Have a few rolls of doggy pick up bags and if you have the room, a cardboard box and some litter for your cat.

A Container to Carry it All

There are several ways to carry this kit (along with your disaster kit for people). You can pack it in one of the crates for your pet or you can pack it in a plastic storage container, a big tote bag, or a suitcase. I use a plastic trash can with wheels. My disaster kit and my pets kit are all in one trash can that’s prominently marked, “Disaster Kit.’ It’s stored in the garage attached to the house, and I can then wheel it in the house, out of the house, or to my car; depending on where it’s needed.

Check Your Kit

Twice a year check your kit. Take out the food and water so you can use it and replace it with fresh food and water. Check everything in the first aid kit and replace those things that have been used or expired. Double check prescriptions and update anything that’s changed. This actually only takes a few minutes so it really isn’t a chore. If you do it on a regular basis, then you won’t forget. When daylight savings changed in the spring and the fall, I check the batteries in my home’s smoke detectors (as we’ve been told to do) and I update the disaster kit.

All of this preparation may seem to be courting disaster or to be looking at the world in a negative way. That might be true, in a way, but speaking from personal experience, if you ever need this kit you’ll be glad you took the time to put it together.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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