This week's tragic events in Oklahoma proved once again that disasters of large proportions can strike with little or no notice and it's important for everyone to have a plan in case of the worst. That goes for your pets too! There were gripping stories of pet rescues...and, some that sadly didn't turn out as well.
I'm happy to share some advice courtesy of Dr. Neil Shaw, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida that will help all of us make sure our pets survive the worst.
BEFORE A DISASTER
• Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
• Have a current photograph.
• Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
• Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
• Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
• If you plan to shelter your pet - work it into your evacuation route planning.
DURING A DISASTER
• Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
• Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm - reassure them and remain calm.
• Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.
AFTER A DISASTER
• Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home - often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
• If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
• After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior.
• Don't forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan.
PET DISASTER SUPPLY KIT
• Proper identification including immunization records
• Ample supply of food and water
• A carrier or cage
• Muzzle, collar and leash