Have an Emergency Plan for Your Pets

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    Have an Emergency Plan for Your Pets

    LOGAN, UT – Approximately 60 percent of Americans own animals and include their pets as important family members. The likelihood that people and pets will survive an emergency such as a fire, earthquake, flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning.

    According to Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Washington County, it is important to keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals.

    “Animals left behind in disasters can become a risk for emergency responders and be at risk themselves for health complications, getting lost, injured or killed,” she said. “That's why family preparedness plans need to account for the four-legged and winged members of the household.”

    Because of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, Washburn said national legislation was passed on Oct. 6, 2006, requiring that pets be included in disaster evacuation plans.

    The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act found at

    http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusfd2006pl109_308.htm states that when given a choice between their own personal safety or abandoning their household pets, a significant number of people will choose to risk their lives in order to remain with their pets.

    “It is now clear that we must require these jurisdictions to have plans in effect to deal with their pet-owning populations as a matter of public safety,” the act states.

    Rick Williams, Cache County emergency manager, said that since all disasters happen at the local level, local jurisdictions (cities, towns, etc.) are encouraged to develop emergency plans that include animals in the evacuation, sheltering and care processes following a large-scale emergency or disaster.

    “There is an annex to the State Emergency Operations Plan that outlines actions that will be taken by the state to assist counties or other local jurisdictions with emergency animal assistance,” he said. “Pet owners can contact the Red Cross to determine if animals will be accepted at designated local shelters in the area.”

    According to Brenda K. Smith, executive director of the Cache Humane Society, many people are well prepared as far as food storage and emergency supplies go, but the family pet is often overlooked in emergency preparedness. 

    “In the case of an evacuation, many people will not have enough supplies on hand to take their pets with them, and turning pets loose to fend for themselves is not a viable option,” she said.

    To keep pets safe in the event of an emergency, Washburn said to prepare now by assembling a pet evacuation kit that is stocked to take care of pets for several days. Items to consider include records that show immunizations and health conditions, medications, identification and microchip documentation, photographs of you and your pet, water, food and bowls, plastic bags or litter box for clean up and comforting items such as blankets and toys. A cage or crate and leash is also needed.

    Washburn said to be aware that if you go to a public shelter in the event of an emergency, animals may not be allowed inside.

     “Some shelters take pets, but they are kept in a separate section identified by the local emergency manager,” she said. “Since not all shelters allow pets, it’s important to plan for shelter alternatives.”

    Smith said to keep on hand a list of places outside of the immediate area that are willing to board animals in the emergency kit.  

    “Your veterinarian can assist with this, and can be a valuable asset in emergency planning for your pet,” Smith said. “Microchipping is something you may want to discuss as well. This permanent implant for your pet and corresponding enrollment in a recovery database can help a veterinarian or shelter identify your animal if it is lost.”

    Since September is National Preparedness Month, now is a good time to assess emergency preparations for both people and pets. Visit the Extension Disaster Education Network at http://eden.lsu.edu/ for additional disaster preparation tips and information.


    By: Carolyn Washburn - Sept. 11, 2012