House fires, wildfires and oncoming weather hazards such as tornadoes and floods are among the many reasons to have an emergency evacuation plan for pets in place.
“The well-being of everyone in a household – and that includes pets – potentially may depend on a well-considered, feasible plan of action in the event of an emergency,” said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, Oklahoma State University Extension veterinarian and director of continuing education for the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Emergencies are highly stressful situations,” she said. “It’s easy to forget something. A checklist and plan can help mitigate problems.”
The first thing to consider is finding a safe place for pets to stay. Some places where a person or family might stay may not accept pets, and depending on how widespread the emergency, many boarding facilities – including veterinary clinics – may not be able to accommodate animal care as they normally do. It is best for pet owners to have several prearranged options lined up.
Pets should have their own emergency preparedness kit. Containers for kits should be easy to carry, water repellent and sturdy. Detailed instructions for care of the animal should be included in the kit. Two weeks’ worth of medicines, necessary medical equipment for first aid and a way to identify specific medical needs are a must. Include copies of veterinary records whenever possible and a recent photo of the pet, preferably with household members. Two weeks’ worth of food, a can opener, food dishes and bottles of water also should be included. Litter, paper towels, trash bags and disinfectants are other considerations.
“Many pets will be agitated in response to the changing situation,” Biggs said. “If pets require transport, be sure to include a strong leash and muzzle in case the animal becomes frightened. For small pets, keep a pet carrier stored with the emergency kit so it is ready to go if needed.”
Pet owners also need to consider the possibility they may not be at home when an emergency occurs. Make sure a trusted friend or neighbor is available as a backup, has access to the pet and is aware of the plan so the animal can be transported to a prearranged place for care if needed. Be sure the replacement caregiver knows where the pet may like to hide when stressed to make locating the animal easier.
“It’s important that a pet’s identification tags be current and include important information such as the owner’s name and phone number,” Biggs said. “If a pet should escape during transport, the identification tag may be the animal’s ticket home. Consider microchipping the pet as a permanent means of identification. Owners also should update their contact information with the microchip registry as changes occur.”
Biggs added many pets may not be able to survive on their own. Preparing for emergency situations is responsible management to help ensure the well-being of companion animals.
OSU Extension is one of two state agencies administered by the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and is a key part of OSU’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.