Disaster Preparedness for Animals

June Is National Disaster Preparedness Month For Animals

Disaster: An event that causes serious loss, destruction, hardship, unhappiness or death.

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Preparedness: State of full readiness for action

What you should know.

When I spoke to Ann Brooks, Phoenix Landing’s founder, and told her about my interest in this subject she was resourceful, as always, and quick to send me information from the Katrina Disaster that was gathered in the aftermath. I had no idea how devastating it must have been for people who had pets.

• 104,00 pets were left behind after Katrina, some of the reasons are heartbreaking.
• 15,000 were officially rescued.
• An estimated 3,000 were reunited with their families.

This left an estimated 88,700 pets that were unaccounted for. This is totally mind-boggling. Maybe you have been responsible for several pets during your entire lifetime, or you may visit an animal shelter and help give a loving touch with a gentle voice to an animal without a family. I don’t think you could conceive of such an enormous number!
Yet, it is a terrible reality for those who lived it.

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88,700. This means 243 individual animals would have to be touched by you every day for 365 days, sounds overwhelming to consider. To anyone who was told they had to leave their pets behind in order to be taken to a shelter, to be confined with thousands of people, caught up with their own perils, faced with thoughts of the animals that you left behind, to fend for themselves because they were not allowed in the shelter with humans, my heart aches for you.

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We can’t prevent disasters but we can be proactive and condition ourselves and our animals to what might happen when circumstances are out of our control. Whether it is Mother Nature or mankind, we can help avoid the chaos of the emergency by gathering food & water supplies, comfort items, first aid items and rehearsing with our animals.
These are not the dogs and cats, birds and rabbits, cattle and horses that can just take off and survive as the creatures they once were. We have domesticated them.

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Domesticate: to cultivate plants or raise animals, selectively breeding them to increase their suitability for human requirements.

We made them to conform to our world. We have to assume the role of the king of the jungle, matriarch of the herd, flock leader, pack leader. We need to prepare them to handle what ever comes their way. Those of us who have pets as family members, companions, service animals, search & rescue or maybe you help by fostering and rehabilitating, we have a connection and an unspoken feeling of responsibility to them.
Rehearse with your entire family. Put a plan into motion that is understood by anyone who may be able to help with your animals.

Communication- make a list of important phone numbers, addresses and e-mails. Update and distribute it every 6 months or when we reset your clocks or change the batteries in your smoke alarm.
• Friends and family names.
• Animal rescue organizations.
• List of hotels that are pet friendly.
• Local vets and boarding kennels.
• Local disaster shelters that will provide a safe place for pets.
• List of current vaccinations and medications your pet is taking.
• An up to date photo of your pet(s).
• The location where you keep the “Animal Disaster Kit”.
• Update your ownership address and contact information with the microchip company or organization.

Preparation- a duffel bag or a back pack that can be grabbed quickly with items that you will need for your animal to survive over an extended period of time.
• Travel cage, crate, extra leash, halter, rope, newspaper, and towels.
• Attach a zip lock bag and secure to the underneath of a travel cage, or tape to a halter or attach to a collar to provide owner info, microchip#, medical alerts, vet#, family contact #’s.
• Dry food and water supply for several days if space allows.
• Bowls or containers appropriate for their needs.
• First aid kit, depending on your individual pets needs and check with your vet.
• Blanket, toys, favorite comfort items from home.
• Disinfectant for your hands if dealing with foster or shelter animals.

Jennny and Joe
(Jenny Drummey and Joe the Crow during Katrina)

Rehearse- don’t wait until THE EMERGENCY arrives to introduce an unfamiliar item. Being swarmed into an unfamiliar building will be scary, but if they feel protection in some way by their familiar cage, blanket or toys this will help them adjust.
• Familiarize them with the items in the kit.
• Have them experience the cage or item you will use for confining them at a shelter.
• Put your extra collar or halter on and make adjustments for a secure fit.
• Give them the emergency bowls to eat and drink out of frequently.
• Their odors on a blanket or towel will be a comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.
• Once they are introduced to these items, try to do an emergency rehearsal by moving them in and out of the cage quickly, then even out of the house, into a car for a drive around the block. Always make it pleasant and controlled.
• Obtain information through the Internet, and from animal shelters or welfare organizations for additional information and instructions about your area.

The evacuating authorities have good, solid reasons for prohibiting animals in the shelters. Not that we would all agree but consider the health aspect to the humans in the confined shelter if no one can even open a door for a day or more. Some people have allergies that would cause serious respiratory reactions and complications without conventional medicines or health facilities available to treat them. Not to mention the animals confined with all those people exuding different smells, personalities, and energy. We know that animals have a heightened sense of their surroundings. Nervous people, screaming children, adults crying! I would not want to subject any of my animals to this scene either. People have difficulties after a prolonged period of time. Our animals are not ready for all the trauma that they would be forced to endure, yet how can we keep them safe, controlled and comfortable in evacuations and disasters.
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Disaster Response Teams report that after Katrina they are striving to make more emergency animal shelters within close proximity to the human shelters. They realized how many people would not evacuate because they refused to leave their animals behind. The loss of both human and animal lives was staggering enough to demand change.
Petfinder™ endorsed legislation that became law on October 6, 2006, that requires pets to be included in disaster evacuation plans. The bill, called the Pets Evacuation, Transportation Standards Act (PETS), was sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California and Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts. The law requires that state and local disaster preparedness plans (as needed for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding) include provisions for household pets and service animals.

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The PETS legislation represents the first government initiative to officially form evacuation and relief plans for people with pets. This legislation is a critical step to ensuring that pet guardians and those who rely upon service animals will never be forced to choose between their own safety and the safety of their beloved animals.
The more research I do, the more these lists and ideas grow. You will find the Internet has an endless resource for you to fill your brain, invent, adjust and decide how to conform this information to fit you and your pets. Fema.gov also carries a lot of information. Local Animal Control and SPCA’s, bird clubs, canine & feline clubs can all offer seminars on what you can do and things you should do to help them and you through any day-by-day disruptions in your lives. If you have none in your community, get together with local representatives from vets to animal welfare groups and form one.
After a Disaster
• If after a disaster you have to leave town, take your pets with you. Pets are unlikely to survive on their own.
• In the first few days after the disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost. Also, snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood areas. Downed power lines are a hazard.
• The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard with access to shelter and water.

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7 thoughts on “Disaster Preparedness for Animals

  1. Fantastic informative article! I have a grab bag for my macaw that has the unassembled PVC T stand in it, with room for bags of seed, pellets, nuts, towel, newspapers, food & water dishes, chew toys & cans of mixed veggies & fruit. She has a carrier that she’s used to that gets securely bungied in the back seat of the car. If we have to evacuate, we have family & friends homes to go to or a pet friendly hotel.
    I heard a friend of my DIL left several macaws & amazons in an apartment when they evacuated for Katrina and weren’t allowed to go back for them. They suffered thru that storm & heat for a week or so. That was a huge wake up call!

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  2. Thank you, Phoenix Landing, for this informative post!
    I put together a gallon size ziploc bag for Evita, my Hahn’s macaw after the storms that swept through in late April.
    I do have one idea to add. I noticed (while we hunkered down in the hall closet during a tornado warning) that she was stressed while in her carrier. Since then, I’ve placed some toys in it, and we practice getting in. I reward her with a treat, and now she sees her carrier as a “happy place”.

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  3. Parrots are smart beyond expectation & keyed into our intentions. My macaw will sit on me or my arm but will not allow a hand or arm around her, period.
    I was napping in the afternoon when her scream woke me, the TV was on with severe weather warnings. I switched to the radar channel and possible tornado situation is bearing down on us. She jumped onto my arm from the playtower, I ran into the bathroom & pressed her against my chest. I wasn’t terrified but afraid as the strong winds passed.
    To my surprise, I realized she allowed my arms surrounding her, across her back without any resistance until the winds subsided. She knew that we were in a bad situation & did exactly what I wanted her to – amazing!
    I still can’t press her to me or place a hand on her back. I’m working on desensitizing her to that and somehow she understands, but doesn’t like it for more than a second or two.

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  4. Great information Linda!
    I live in a coastal flood area, and last fall during one particularly bad storm, we were awoken at 2 am by our local police, informing us that they were doing a voluntary evacuation. They were pulling a small row boat down the street to transport out anyone wishing to go. My husband calmly informed the officer that if we had to leave, they would need to come back with a bigger boat, as we had 7 parrots that we would not leave behind. Turns out that the storm was already subsiding and we didn’t have to leave, but in our county, Harford County Maryland, emergency officials have been instructed to evacuate any and all pets with their people, so they would have taken all our birds with us to the shelter, had an evacuation been necessary. Governments have learned well from Katrina, that some of us would rather risk our own lives that leave our feathered or furry companions behind.
    All out parrots do have their own travel carriers set up with perches and toys ready to go. Just this past Sunday, everyone had dinner in their travel carriers as we sat through a tornado warning.

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  5. Pingback: Disaster Preparedness for Animals

  6. this article is very informative, and i definitely endorse all the suggestions given here, but there’s one thing i think you’ve missed: plan accordingly to avoid staying in a shelter. shelters are awful places for people and pets alike, and if you can get to a safe place that isn’t a shelter, everyone in your group will be far happier and healthier.

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