Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Be Prepared!

Residents of the Santa Barbara area of Southern California are trying to recover from a devastating wildfire that ravaged the hillside community. The Jesusita fire gutted 78 homes and damaged many others, displaced hundreds, and injured 28 firefighters - three seriously. As of today, exactly one week after the fire started, it is 80 percent contained. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by the fire.

Whether it’s a large-scale natural disaster such as a fire, earthquake or hurricane, or an unforeseen emergency, everyone, including your animals, can benefit from a well thought out emergency plan. When planning ahead, keep in mind the following:

If you need to evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. They are not likely to survive on their own. For public heath reasons, most emergency shelters do not accept pets. Do some research now to find area hotels/motels that are pet-friendly and identify a few friends and family members who would be willing to shelter your pets in an emergency. Contact your local Animal Services Department and inquire about the emergency sheltering plans. In Santa Barbara for example,
Animal Services partnered with the Earl Warren Showgrounds to provide temporary shelter for hundreds of large and small animals. Definitely want to send a shout out to the wonderful volunteers who played a role in that effort!

Make absolutely certain that your pets wear collars with identification tags at all times. Keep the contact information up-to-date. Consider adding a cell phone number or number of an out-of-area friend or relative to maximize the opportunities for an appropriate caretaker to be contacted regarding your pet. Have your dogs and cats micro-chipped at your vet’s office or local shelter, to provide them with a permanent source of identification.

Keep an appropriately sized crate or pet carrier on-hand. In the event of an earthquake, confining your pets in a crate will help prevent injuries from broken glass or other foreign objects. Depending on the extent of damage to your home, you may need the crate to keep your pet safely confined on your property.

Create a Pet Survival Kit that is kept in an easily accessible place and contains necessities like pet food, bottled water, medication, food/water bowls, a can opener, first-aid kit and one or more sturdy leashes. Include relevant information about your pet such as veterinarian information and a brief medical history. Make sure to include your contact information as well as the contact information of anyone authorized to care for your pet in your absence. Include a current photo of each of your pets. If space allows, include your pet’s bed and a familiar toy to help reduce stress.

Make a list of area boarding facilities, veterinarian offices and shelters. In the event that you are unable to return to your home right away and need long-term care for your animals, these facilities can assist you in finding appropriate care for your pets. If you must place your pet in temporary foster care with a friend or boarding facility, make sure your Pet Survival Kit accompanies him.

Keep in mind that not all emergencies take place while you are home with your pets. Designate a nearby friend or family member who would be willing to go to your home to check on your pets and pick them up if necessary. Make sure this person has a key to your home and knows where to find your Pet Survival Kit. Consider adding an Animal Rescue Sticker to your front door or window to alert rescue personnel of the type and number of animals inside. Rescue stickers can be purchased at most pet stores and are available free-of-charge at

If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home while you evacuate in an emergency (as was the case for many Hurricane Katrina victims), the
Humane Society of the United States offers the following suggestions:

1. Confine your pet to a safe area inside the home. Never leave your pet chained up.

2. Leave your pet with plenty of fresh water, preferably in a non-tip/non-spill bowl.

3. Place a visible notice outside advising rescue personnel what pets are inside the house and where they are located. Include phone numbers for yourself, your pet’s emergency contact and the veterinarian.

4. Leave leashes, transport carriers and your Pet Survival Kit where they can easily be found.

For more information on how to best meet the needs of your animals in the event of an emergency, visit the
Association for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States. Have a emergency tip you'd like to share? Please post a comment. Knowledge is power. The more we know, the better we can help protect ourselves and our four-legged friends.
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