As pet parents, it’s our job to keep our four-legged family members safe and sound, no matter what happens. We may not be able to predict what is coming next, but we can craft plans to help us ensure that our families (both human and animal) emerge from a crisis safe and sound.
Here are our top tips for incorporating your animals into your emergency planning efforts.
Pets and people can quickly get separated during a crisis situation. Identification can reunite you, but only if the data is current, accessible, and/or legible.
Ensure that your pet has three forms of identification that are up-to-date with your most current contact information:
- Microchip. These tiny chips are filled with crucial information and sit beneath the skin where they can’t be washed away or removed. Ensure that your name and contact information are current, and include a secondary contact that doesn’t live in your immediate area. If your hometown is flooded, for example, a sister living in a neighboring city might stay safe and dry, and she could get the call when your pet is found and your phone isn’t working.
- Collars. It’s easier for rescuers to wrangle pets wearing collars. And some come with embroidery options, so you can sew your name and contact information into the fabric.
- Tags. Chip readers aren’t always available in a crisis, but tags are easy for anyone to understand. Include a standard version with your contact information, and clip on a rabies tag too. Check with your local county to ensure your pet’s tag information is current and on file with them as well.
Get stickers like these, and put them in your windows. Outline how many pets you have, and keep that updated with the numbers of pets you have. If you must leave your home, people will know how many animals need help.
Create an Escape Plan
When a problem hits your community, you won’t have time to plot your next steps. A rudimentary plan becomes critical when the crisis hits, and the work you do now could save you both time and stress later on.
Your plan should include:
- A pet-sitting team. Can someone nearby step in and help if you’re hurt and get waylaid? Can someone keep a watchful eye on your pet for weeks, if you can’t get back to take over the duties yourself. Give your caregivers a copy of your keys and security codes. Keep a list of your pet’s medications, food preferences, and veterinary contacts in a prominent place (like a labeled cupboard), so your petsitters can find the supplies they need.
- An out-of-town contact. If evacuation orders hit, can a family member or friend help? Identify people that live outside of your community, and ensure they know your pets will come with you.
- An escape route with hotels. Sometimes, friends and family members can’t support our pets. And sometimes, the routes we’d take to escape a crisis aren’t dotted with people we know. Look into hotels for support. Use lists like this one to identify pet-friendly places to stay during a crisis.
It’s impossible to know exactly where you’ll go in a crisis. Oregon residents, for example, might head east when faced with a tsunami event. But if a major fire broke out, they might drive west instead.
Don’t worry about planning for every available possibility. But do set aside time to plot out general escape routes in all directions.
Pack An Escape Bag
Don’t wait until evacuation orders to pull critical pet-related items together. Grab everything now. When a problem strikes, you’ll be ready.
Your grab-and-go bag should include:
- Walking tools. Include harnesses, collars, leashes, and backup tags. Also include an appropriately sized muzzle for your dog. Regardless of how cool, calm and collected people know their dogs to be, we never know how they could behave under extreme stress.
- Critical data. Grab your pet’s medical records, feeding instructions, and current photographs. Pop them on a USB, and keep printed copies too.
- First aid kit. Include items from this checklist.
- Cleanup tools. Include pickup bags, cat litter/litter boxes (aluminum baking pans make nice substitutes), and a pet-safe clean-up spray.
- Comfort items. Grab toys, soft blankets, and treats.
Keep your pet’s food in a grab-and-go container, so you can access it in a hurry when the time comes. Stash bottled water nearby too, so you’ll have that ready.
Store your supplies in crates. You’ll need one for each pet, and the crate should be big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in. Pack each crate with the items on this list, and store your kits somewhere clean and safe, like a garage or attic.
Resources You Can Use
Bookmark these links, so you’re ready to act fast when you need to:
- Marion County Dog Services. Watch the lost and found dogs page if your pup is missing. You might see the furry face here that you’ve been looking for.
- Polk County Dog Services. Dog’s aren’t held for long periods at the Sheriff’s office. But call to find out if your dog was found and picked up.
- Willamette Humane Society. If your pet is missing, visit the stray pets page. Submit a missing dog or cat online. You can also help out other families missing a pet. Submit a found report for a dog or a cat.