Pet Care - Disaster Preparation Tips

The State of Indiana is home to approximately 31 million animals, from household pets to livestock to wild creatures. When disaster strikes, people can rely on state, federal and private humanitarian agencies to provide food, shelter, medical care and rescue assistance. But what about animals?

Unfortunately, disaster assistance groups such as the American Red Cross and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) are not equipped to handle, rescue and care for displaced pets during large-scale emergencies. For safety and sanitation reasons, human disaster shelters cannot accept animals (except service animals).

As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to provide for the safety, shelter and well-being of your animals, even in times of flood, fire, tornado, earthquake or man-made emergencies. Think it can't happen to you? Consider that between 1988 and 1996, only two of Indiana's 92 counties did not experience a declared State of Disaster.

Planning ahead, before a disaster happens, can ease your worries in a stressful situation and mean the difference between life and death for your pet.

Before the event:

  • Keep your pet's vaccinations current.
  • Take photos of each animal, including any distinguishing marks.
  • Store photos and medical records in resealable plastic bags with other important papers, including your pet's microchip number.
  • Compile a disaster Preparedness Kit for each pet.
  • Familiarize your pet with the kit's carrier or cage before an emergency.
  • Keep a properly fitted collar with current license, rabies and identification tags on each pet-even cats that never go outside. Birds should be leg-banded. Consider permanent microchip identification for your pet.
  • Start a neighborhood "buddy system" to check on one another's pets during disasters. Exchange veterinary information and file a permission slip with your veterinarian authorizing your "buddy" to get necessary emergency treatment for your pet if you cannot be located.
  • Determine the best place to leave your pet in case of a disaster. Identify a place in your home as well as an off-site location for evacuations.

During the event:

  • Bring your pet indoors, especially if you cannot evacuate with it. Do not leave pets chained outdoors, position cages off the floor where they won't tip over.
  • Prepare a preselected site indoors for your pet. Leave only dry foods and fresh water in nonspill containers. If possible, open a faucet to let water drip into a large container or partially fill a bathtub with water.
  • Do not leave out vitamin-rich treats, which could be fatal, if over-eaten.
  • Keep bird cages covered with a sheet, away from windows and other pets.
  • Evacuate your pet early, if possible.
  • Take your pet's vaccination and medical records as well as identification photographs with you.

After the event:

  • Pet behavior may change after an emergency; monitor it closely. Keep pets leashed and maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, causing confusion and abnormal behavior.
  • If your pet was lost, contact boarding kennels, humane shelters and veterinary hospitals.
  • If you find a pet, call animal control or any emergency phone numbers set up during the disaster.
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