Many of us are not ready to evacuate quickly with not only our families but also our pets. As harsh as the reality is, animals left behind in an emergency may not survive. In recent years, as thousands of people fled their homes, with or without warning, thousands of cats, dogs, horses and other livestock have been left behind. The lucky ones survived, but many animals perished. Any advance planning you can do helps ensure that your animals will survive and, if separated, can be reunited quickly.
If you must evacuate, try not to leave your pets behind. It is imperative that you try to make advance arrangements for the protection and safety of your pets. Call motels away from known dangerous areas. Make sure they accept pets and ask if there are any restrictions on the size and number allowed. Go Pet Friendly (https://www.gopetfriendly.com/) and Pet Friendly Hotels (http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/pet-friendly-hotels-california.html) provide pet search apps ‘hotels / motels / etc. that accept animals.
Ask reliable friends or relatives, who live far from the area, if your pets could stay with them in an emergency. Also, ask them if they could look after them for an extended period if you were to lose your residence. Contact local veterinary clinics (https://spottehama.com/veterinary-care), local animal shelters and rescues (https://spottehama.com/rescues-%26-shelters) and ask if, in case of disaster, if they would be able to house your pet. Locate possible boarding kennels on Bring Fido (https://www.bringfido.com/resource/doggie_daycare_boarding/state/california/) or Pet Bookings (https://www.petbookings.com/kennels/California) to determine what might be available. Find out who is left at the scene and what arrangements are made if they must also evacuate. Make sure all pet vaccines are up to date. Most establishments will require proof of vaccination against rabies, distemper, parvo and Bordetella.
If you must leave your pets during the evacuation, let them roam free inside your home with dry food and plenty of water. Never leave your pet chained or tied up. Place a notice outside, indicating which animals are in the house. Provide a contact phone number, as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. Also, in the event that you are absent during an evacuation order, make arrangements in advance for a trusted person to take your pets, if they can, and meet you at a specified location. Give your emergency caretaker a key to your house and show them where your pets are likely to be (especially if they are hiding when they are nervous) and where necessary items, like medicines, are kept.
Set up an emergency pet supply box. It should include a minimum of three days of food and water for all pets. Don’t forget to add feeders, a can opener, and a spoon. Include these other items: A first aid kit that contains a two week supply of all the medications the pet needs; a sheet that lists dietary restrictions, feeding times, etc. and photocopies of medical records with proof of all vaccinations.
Have separate pet records, which include: the name, age, type, sex and breed of the animal; a contact name with address, phone number and area code; distinctive features; and whether the animal is spayed / neutered. In case you need to create “Lost” notices, have a current photo of each pet. If cats are involved, don’t forget a litter box, collectable litter box, plastic bags, and a shovel. Additional supplies that may be helpful are blankets, paper and cloth towels, plastic trash bags, a flashlight with extra batteries, and cleaning supplies.
All pets must have a collar with an attached ID tag. Make sure to chip your pet before disaster strikes, as this will increase your chances of reuniting if they are separated. It is important that you have dogs on a leash or in cages and cats in transport cages. Cat carriers should be large enough to hold a small litter box and two small dishes, while still leaving enough space for your cat to comfortably lie down or stand up to use the litter box. Dog kennels or collapsible cages should be large enough to hold two anti-tip bowls, while still leaving enough room for your dog to stand up and turn around.
If you have other pets such as birds, reptiles or amphibians (herptiles), hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, etc., prepare their specific escape items as well. Have a baby carrier large enough to comfortably contain the animal. Styrofoam insulated boxes can be used as a temporary shelter for reptiles provided they are ventilated. Place proper identification on all carriers, including animal information, your name, address, and phone numbers with area code. Many reptiles can be marked with a permanent marker.
For birds, bandage the paw for identification purposes and have a cage cover available to keep them calm and protected. Spray bottles are also extremely useful. They can moisten a bird’s feathers or help maintain the higher humidity that some herptiles need. Do not forget enough food and water, food supplements, extra bedding material and appropriate cleaning products. Fresh vegetables or fruit may not be readily available during a disaster, so be sure to keep frozen items ready for emergencies. If your herptile feeds on live food, remember to take this into account for evacuation as well.
The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a free booklet that includes detailed information on assembling emergency kits and plans for a wide variety of animal species. It can be downloaded from (https://ebusiness.avma.org/ProductCatalog/product.aspx?ID=140).
Ronnie Casey has volunteered with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since moving in 2011. A retired RN, she works to help animals in need in Tehama County. She can be reached at [email protected].