Emergency situations come in different forms, ranging from being away from home for a short period to permanent evacuation, said ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), a non-profit organization that helps prevent animal cruelty. Disasters like floods require different measures to keep you and your pets safe. Hence, it is better to be prepared because you will never know when emergencies arise.
Emergency Preparedness and Planning for Animals In Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia (2018)
Dr. Megan McCarthy, Jenny Bigelow, and Dr. Melanie Taylor of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) found that 39% of respondents said that all adults are away from home “a lot of the time” or “quite often” when asked how much time the adults in the household were over 30 minutes away from home on a “typical” week day. 36% said that all adults are “rarely” or “very rarely” over 30 minutes from home on a week day. 92% usually had access to a private vehicle while 4% reported they sometimes did. Only 4% said they did not have access to a private vehicle. This question was asked to determine how many residents might be away from home and unable to get back to their homes during emergencies.
Regarding animal ownership, 98% of respondents said they owned at least one cat or dog, with dogs (76%), cats (54%), chickens (27%), fish (14%), and birds (14%) being the most frequently owned animals. 53% owned two or more dogs while 66% had two or more cats. 12% owned larger animals such as horses, sheep, goats, alpacas, pigs, and cows. 14% of respondents only owned one animal.
When asked how prepared the respondents felt for an emergency and how they intend to manage their animals in an emergency situation, 63% answered “somewhat prepared,” as they thought about what they might do and initiated a discussion about it to other household members. 20% said they were “very prepared,” with the participants having a written or well-rehearsed plan for an emergency situation. 16% felt they were “not really prepared,” as they had not definite plan and they had not discussed about what to do. Only 1% felt “unprepared.”
However, 72% included their animals in their emergency planning while 18% had planned for some animals but not others. Likewise, 47% had a definite plan for where they would take the animals to evacuate while 26% said they “probably” had a plan for only some animals. 26% said they no clear plan in place and 1% did not plan to take any animals with them in an evacuation.
Animal behavior also posed challenges to evacuation and when asked if the respondents’ animals had any special needs, 28% said they had one or more animals with behavioral issues like aggression or anxiety. 26% had elderly animals and another 11% mentioned they had sick animals with medical needs. As for transportation, 66% would or could take all their animals with them while 22% and 12% felt they “possibly” or “definitely” would or could not take at least some of the animals, respectively.
44% felt they had all the information they needed to prepare and plan for their animas unlike 49% of respondents who felt “unsure.” 7% felt they did not have all the information they needed. Respondents sought information from emergency services, local veterinary clinic, social media, friends and family, and RSPCA.
How to Prepare for A Disaster
1. Consider Your Geographic Location
Is your area prone to floods or earthquakes? Identify which of the rooms are safe and clear of hazards like flying debris, windows, etc. Choose utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones as they are easy to clean. In case of floods, consider going to the highest location in your home or a room that has counters or high shelves where your pets can take shelter.
2. Create An Evacuation Plan
Include your pet in your evacuation plan so your household knows where to go during an emergency, advised Purina, a pet food company. Don’t forget to look for pet-friendly evacuation shelters in advance. Stay together and if you can’t find any shelters, consider boarding facilities, a trusted relative’s or friend’s house, pet-friendly hotels, your veterinarian’s office and local animal shelters.
Include alternative options in your emergency plan so you don’t have to make calls during the emergency itself. Purina Chief Veterinary Officer, Kurt Venator recommended keeping your pet’s medical records with you, as some pet-friendly shelters require you to present proof of vaccination before letting your pet stay there.
3. Have A Pet Emergency Kit Checklist
This will depend if you own a dog or a cat, but in general, your pet’s emergency kit should include a bottled water, one to weeks’ worth of food, collapsible food and water bowls, blankets, and basic pet first-aid kit.
Your emergency kit should also include a list of medications, emergency contacts, photos of your pet (in case it gets separated), your vet’s contact information, leash/collar/harness, and flashlight with extra batteries. A pet life jacket and paw protectors are also great essentials. Keep your kit’s contents current— replace any food or water in the kit every six months. Indicate the date you prepared and checked on the contents. Update any contact information and vaccination records.
4. Place Identification Information
Ensure that all your pets wear collars and tags containing their current identification information. It should include your pet’s name, your phone number, and urgent medical needs. Write its name and your contact information on your pet’s carrier. You can also have your pet microchipped.
5. Choose A “Designated Caregiver/s
This will need some time and thought. It is recommended to choose a temporary caregiver who lives close to your residence. They could be someone who oftentimes stays at home during the day while you work or has access to your house. That caregiver should be trustworthy, and this step may work well if you have neighbors who own pets. For choosing a permanent caregiver, ask yourself if this is someone whom you are entrusting to take care of your pet in case of an emergency.
A permanent caregiver should have met your pet and had a good history of taking care of animals. Discuss your expectations with the caregiver to help them understand the responsibility of caring for your furry companion.
Owners should include their pets in their emergency plan. Like humans, pets should have their own emergency kit containing food, water, and medication. Planning ahead is better since emergency situations can be unpredictable. Better to be safe than to be sorry!