Pet Connection: Preparing for disaster saves lives

This column previously ran on June 24, 2013.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and earthquakes – there are few places on Earth that are not vulnerable to one or more natural disasters. We’ve learned from countless disasters that people often will put their own lives at risk, and the lives of first responders as well, if there are no options for relocating with their animal companions.

Public planning now includes pets, and your own planning should, too.

Here are the basics you need to know:

▪  Have a plan. Prepare for all possibilities, and make sure everyone in your family knows what to do. Try to figure out now what’s most likely for you and your community, and how you will respond. Where will you go? What will you take? You need to get these answers in advance.

▪  ID your pets. Many, if not most, animals will survive a disaster. But too many will never see their families again if there’s no way to determine which pet belongs to which family. That’s why pets should always wear a collar and identification tags. Better still is an microchip.

▪  Practice preventive care. Disease follows disaster, which is why keeping a pet as healthy as possible with up-to-date vaccinations is essential. Prepare a file with up-to-date medical records, your pets’ microchip or tattoo numbers, your veterinarian’s phone number and address, feeding and medication instructions, and recent pictures of your animals.

▪  Have restraints ready. Even normally calm pets can freak out under the stress of an emergency, especially if injured. Keep leashes, muzzles and carriers ready for emergencies. Harnesses work better than collars at keeping panicky pets safe.

▪  Keep supplies on hand. Keep several days’ worth of pet food and safe drinking water ready to go in the event of a disaster, as well as any necessary medicines. Canned food is better in an emergency, so lay in a couple of cases, and don’t forget to pack a can opener.

▪  Learn first aid. Pet-supply stores sell ready-made kits, or you can put your own together fairly easily with the help of any pet-related first-aid book or website.

Dr. Marty Becker and column partner Kim Campbell Thornton are affiliated with