Today’s guest writer is Robbi Hess, Story Editor at Positively Woof. Robbi is writing about National Animal Preparedness Disaster Day and how to keep your dog safe.
What would you do in the event of an emergency? Do you have a disaster plan for your family? What about your dogs? They are part of your family and when you’re putting together your family disaster preparedness plan, you need to ask yourself, “how will we care for our dogs during an emergency?”
In light of May 12 being National Animal Preparedness Disaster Day we have put together a list of tips to ensure your dog is prepared to survive a disaster.
May is a time of rebirth and renewal and of heading into the long, lazy days of summer. In some parts of the country though, May is a time of strong summer storms, rains, hurricanes, even earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happening in Hawaii.
Before an emergency hits or is announced in your part of the world, here are ways to protect your beloved furry family member.
- Understand emergency situations where you live. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, understand what you need to do to survive one. The same goes if you live in an area prone to flooding, earthquakes, heavy snowfalls, loss of electricity, wildfires, etc. Each emergency situation will have its unique survival challenges.
- Evacuation plan. If it’s not safe for you to stay in your home, it’s not safe for your dog to stay there either. In some disasters we have seen the horrific photos of dogs left tied in the backyard to fend for themselves. If you have to evacuate you need to have an evacuation plan that includes finding shelter at which your pet is welcomed. Not all local evacuation shelters will accept dogs; check the emergency shelters in your area and if dogs are not accepted, make plans now for alternative housing during the emergency. Remember, a domesticated dog cannot survive and fend for himself.
- Connecting with friends and family. If you have to evacuate, how will you communicate with friends and family? How will you assure both they and their dogs are safe? If you need emergency veterinarian care, whom will you call?
- Make a go-bag. You need an emergency evacuation go-bag for each of your pets. Each bag should be unique to each pet and allow him or her to thrive — with you — for up to a week, at the least. The bag should have your pet’s medical records, his food, a leash, blankets, a carrier if necessary, water, food and water bowls, a toy or other item to help calm her. Any unique items your pet needs if you have to quickly evacuate. These bags should be packed and in a closet by the exit door. Don’t waste valuable minutes gathering items.
- Who will get your pets if you’re not home? In a perfect world, you would be home with your family and your dogs when disaster strikes. What if you’re not? With whom will you entrust your pets and who will be responsible for going to your home, getting them and their go-bags and bringing them to you? This is a plan you need to have in place prior to any emergency.
- Make certain your pet is microchipped. If the unthinkable happens and you get separated from your dog, how will you assure you’re reunited? If your pet is microchipped that is one way to almost 100 percent assure you’re reunited. At the very least your dog should be wearing a collar with your contact information on it. Make certain the contact info on the collar and on the microchip site is current and has emergency contact information as well.
- Pet identification. This goes beyond having your pet microchipped or wearing a collar. Have his identification in a waterproof container and have a photo of your dog by himself, in several different views and have photos of you and your family with the dog. This will help settle any potential disputes if you’re struggling to regain ownership of your dog if you get separated.
- Shelter in place. In some emergency situations, it is safer for you and your family to shelter in place. Again, your fully packed go-bag can help you and your pets safely shelter in place and survive the emergency. It also makes sense to understand how to perform home emergency tasks such as: turning off the gas, turning off the water, cooking over a camp stove (always use out of doors — never indoors), having blankets and other items to keep warm in case there is no heat, having access to a generator in case anyone in the home needs oxygen or if refrigeration is needed for your or your pets food or medication.
- Know where your pets hide. If you’re in a panic and are frantically trying to find your pets (cats especially) during an emergency evacuation you need to know where your pets hide if they’re scared. Knowing their hiding places will make it easier to retrieve them if you have to evacuate. Better yet, before any kind of emergency ever arises, work with your dogs and cats to train them to always come to you when you call them. This training could be a literal lifesaver. Call your dog excitedly, give him a high value treat, repeat. Do this until he comes to you no matter what. Practice this on occasion, but don’t over do it or he may not come when he truly needs to.
- Be comforting to your dog. Your dog will sense your heightened sense of fear and that, in turn, will make him fearful. An emergency evacuation, even a shelter in place emergency, can lead to your dog becoming fearful and could even cause behavioral issues once the crisis has passed. Be patient and understand that your pet is as scared of what happened as you are. When you’re in a safe location it may make sense to turn on DOGTV programming to help calm him down while you and your family figure out the next steps following the emergency and how you will put your lives back together.
Pack your go bags. Practice your emergency evacuation routes. Talk with friends and family and make arrangements for the care of your dogs and find a safe location you can take your dogs in the event of an evacuation. There is no time like the present to make your plans. In the unlikely event of an emergency or an evacuation, you will be calmer and so will your dog — because you have practiced and you are prepared.