Contributed by Elko Veterinary Clinic. Written by Technician Intern Jessica Jackson.
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, are your animals ready?
If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. Natural and man-made disasters can be scary, and they are just as scary for our pets and livestock. Having an emergency plan in place will take some stress away if disaster strikes. This year in Elko County, our community has dealt with both severe fires and flooding. All natural disasters are hard to predict, but with a little bit of preparation, you will have a safe emergency plan for your animals.
The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Making an emergency plan can be overwhelming so here are a few aspects from the American Veterinary Medical Association that are important to remember:
• Identification – Arguably, identification for your animal is the easiest, as well as the most important piece of an emergency plan. Animals are often displaced during disasters, so by having identification they are more likely to be reunited with their owners. For small animals microchips and ID tags on collars are most common. For large animals or livestock ear tags, tattoos, and brands are the best forms of identification. In a pinch, luggage tags can be useful when attached to a collar or braided into the mane.
• Evacuation Kit – Making a simple kit can make a world of difference for your animal. Be sure to include a week’s worth of food and water, food and water dishes, any medication your animal is currently on, leash and collar or halters, and copies of important medical records, health certificates, brand inspections, proof of ownership, etc.
• Transportation – Be sure to have the correct size carrier or crate to transport small animals. For large animals, have horse or livestock trailers that are in usable condition available. In the case of moving large numbers of livestock have local hauler’s phone numbers on hand.
• Have a place to go that is pet/livestock friendly – When there is a disaster everyone will be looking for the best place to go so it is important to have places in mind. These might include pet-friendly hotels, friends outside the disaster area, or boarding facilities for small animals. For large animals or livestock this may be a challenge. The best bet is either the local fairgrounds, or stable/boarding facilities.
• Emergency phone numbers – Having a list of emergency phone numbers will be handy. Be sure to include: primary veterinarian, state veterinarian, animal shelter, animal control, and anyone else that may be necessary to your specific situation.
Although disasters can be scary, having an emergency plan will take some stress away. It is important to remember our animals within these plans. With any hope, during the next natural disaster that affects Elko County you and your animals will be ready.