August 29th 2005, one of the five most deadliest hurricanes in the history of North America struck. Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane and pack winds of 125 mph. When it was through, over 1,800 people were dead. How many of these lives could have been saved if they were allowed to evacuate with their pets? Many people refused to leave New Orleans because they were not allowed to bring their pets. To many people, pets are like their children. According to a survey that took place after Hurricane Katrina, 44% of the people that decided to stay in the city and not evacuate did so because they were told that they could not take their animals with them. However, as the storm got closer and intensity increased the evacuation changed to mandatory. It is hard to know for sure how many pets were left as a result of the forced evacuation. According to The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “Estimates that 70,000 pets remained in the city during the storm; of those about 15,000 were rescued.” Sadly, only 20% of the animals that were rescued got reconnected with their owners. This is why it is important; don’t forget Fluffy and Fido in your preparedness plans.
How To Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit
You probably all ready have a family emergency kit put together with all of the essentials that you and your family would need in case of a emergency. But did you include your pets? Animals have become such a important part of our lives. While your spouse can help you add things to the kit that you may have forgotten your pet can not help you build their kit. They depend on us to care for them. As a direct result of the catastrophes that took place during the evacuation of New Orleans that involved animals President George Bush signed into act PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act). It is now public law therefore, cities have to be sure to include all pets in their evacuation plans. Now that you are allowed to take your pet, you better make sure that your pet has everything that it needs to survive.
Here is a list of items that you should have in your pet emergency kit:
- Food: Make sure that you have at least enough food for one week. Most agencies suggest three days but, as we discovered with Hurricane Katrina, three days is not enough. Bring the food they are use to eating and keep it in a waterproof container. Don’t forget a bowl to feed them in and a manual can opener.
- Water: Be sure to have extra water on hand for your pet. Again, don’t forget a bowl.
- Medicines: Remember to pack up any medications that your pet may need to survive. Always have extra medication in the emergency kit so you don’t forget. Be aware of any medication that may need refrigeration such as insulin and have a plan in place to keep it cool.
- Medical Records: Be sure to always keep your pets medical records together and with the emergency kit. Records such as proof of ownership, pictures of you and your pet together, vaccinations, and rabies tags are vital especially if you have to cross state lines.
- First Aid Kit: Have a separate medical kit for your pets with basic medical supplies. Some of the items that should be in your pet’s medical kit are: bandages, tape, cotton, scissors, flea and tick prevention, antibiotic ointment, latex gloves, saline solution, alcohol, comb, brush and a pet first aid book.
- Pet Carrier or Crate: Make sure that you have a carrier for each of your pets. Be sure that the carrier or crate is big enough to comfortable fit your pet with room to stand and lie down.
- Sanitation Needs: Don’t forget about the other essentials that your pet needs such as: litter box, litter, paper towels, wipes, plastic bags and newspapers. Also include bleach and other disinfectant products.
- Familiar Items: Emergencies and disaster are not only stressful on humans but on your pet as well. Make sure to make plans to include their favorite toys, blankets, and treats.
Include Your Pets in Your Preparations
Remember, that if the situation appears to not be safe for you then it is not safe for your pet either. If evacuation is necessary then you have to take your pet with you. Many who evacuated during Hurricane Katrina thought that it would only be for a couple of days. Since they thought they would be right back they left their pets behind with enough food and water for a couple of days. Unfortunately, it was much longer then a couple of days and those people who left animals behind were not allowed back into the city to get their pets.
You would not leave your child or elderly parent behind, so do not leave your pet either. However, most shelters will not except animals (even if they are in a pet carrier). Be sure to have plans in place in case you have to go to a shelter but can not bring your pet. Talk to neighbors, relatives, friends or your veterinarian and make arrangements to see if you could have them watch your pets in case you had to be separated from them. If you are not planning on going to a shelter then check out in advance any hotels or motels that would be pet friendly or would make an exception in case of a emergency or disaster.
Final Thoughts on Evacuating With Your Pets
Your pets depend on you to take care of them so don’t let them down by abandoning them in a emergency. Be sure to include your pets in your emergency and disaster drills. Get them use to being in their carrier and traveling in the car. Be sure to keep their vaccinations up to date. Make sure they have a secured collar on with identification in case the two of you get separated. Finally, consider taking some basic first aid training for animals in case you have to give your pet CPR or have to bandage a wounded leg. Everything runs smoother if it is planned ahead of time and practiced regularly. Don’t forget to plan for your pets in your emergency and disaster preparedness plans.