How to Get Your Pet Through a Natural Disaster

I recently saw news reports of the devastating fires in California, and I was almost instantly thinking of Hurricane Katrina and other destructive natural disasters. Most pet owners are completely caught off guard and don't know what to do, or where to go with their pets. During Hurricane Katrina, many pet owners were forced to leave their animals behind and some owners lost their companions, never to be reunited with them again. In this post, I am going to point out some tips for training your pet how to react in times of crisis, and what you can do during one to make sure you and your beloved pet get reunited after the fact. First, I'm going to tell you about what you canbe doing before a natural disaster strikes to get yourself and your pet ready. #1 Make sure your pet is trained to come to you when called NO MATTER WHAT! This means that even during an earthquake or fire, you can trust your pet to come to you, and you know she will obey. If you are trying to get your family to a safe place as quickly as possible (in extreme cases, firefighters, or other emergency workers give you and your family less than 10 minutes to vacate), it helps if your pet will come to you the first time you call her. #2 Continually practice an "emergency plan" and make sure everything goes perfectly. This will also help your pet become familiar with the plan and if you were to ever use it, she would know exactly what to do. If you don't have a plan, you need to come up with one: where will we meet? what items can we bring along? where are we going after we all meet? how long do we have to get to the meeting spot? Make sure one person is in charge of the pets - getting them together and getting them to the meeting spot. #3 Contact your local law enforcement and see where shelters would be if there was a disaster of any kind. This will help in your emergency plan and there won't be any confusion as to where to go after everyone is together. Also ask if pets are allowed to be there and where they will be kept. Some places will not have shelters big enough for you and your pets, and they may be taken from you and housed in a separate place. #4 Make sure your pet has identification tags that are current and legible. If you are separated from her, and someone else finds her, your chances of being back together increase greatly with identification tags. It is becoming more common to get a microchip injected into your pet rather than using identification tags. During times of disaster, the equipment needed to scan the microchip may be unavailable so you need to make sure your pet has a form of identification readily accessible to people. Now, what do you do if you are in the middle of a natural disaster?
  • Carry out your emergency plan down to the minute. If you have practiced this, it will go very smoothly, and everyone will be ready to go in plenty of time!
  • Double check and make sure your pet has all supplies necessary to keep her going (any medications, identification tags, etc.).
  • When you get to your local shelter, try as much as possible to keep everyone together.
  • If rescuers will not allow you to bring your pet along, you have no choice but to leave her. It is very sad, but like I mentioned earlier, some places just aren't big enough to house everyone's animals.
What if the unthinkable happens? What if you get separated from your pet?DO NOT PANIC! Keep a level head, and think clearly. If you have taken the proper precautions (making sure she had proper identification tags), the chances of you being reunited increase. * After everyone is allowed to leave the shelters, check local humane societies and question them about where a pet would be if they had been found during the disaster. It is possible your pet may be at a neighboring human society or shelter, all you can do is call, give them a description of your pet, and leave your name and number. After a disaster, many shelters are flooded with hundreds upon hundreds of these type of calls every day. The best way to make sure your pet isn't there, is by going yourself. You should personally check each and every shelter, it's the only way to make sure your pet isn't there. *If you are still unable to find her, put up posters around your town. Offer a reward of $25 or so for the return of your pet. use a picture if possible, and be as descriptive as you can. Leave a phone number you can be reached, offering a small reward gives people more of an incentive to return your pet, just make sure you put up as many posters as you possibly can to increase your chances! The problem with natural disasters is that they can strike at any moment, catching us off guard. The only way to make sure you are prepared is to practice your plan and make sure your pet has the proper identification tags. If you are prepared, and you have trained your pet properly, the whole situation will go much smoother and you will have a much greater chance of having your pet with you at the end!