At the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency we prepare for many types of emergencies and encourage Nebraskans to make plans for their well-being following a disaster. That means taking care your non-human family members as well.
An emergency may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep you, your family and your pets safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared.
Pets are important members of our households and we must realize that they, too, are affected when disaster strike.
The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals.
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets. Note that not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time. (Family, animal shelters, friends' homes.
Keep an Evac-Pack and supplies handy for your pets. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is. This kit should be clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:
- 3-7 days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- Disposable litter trays
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Pet feeding dishes
- Bottled water, at least 7 days' worth for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
- Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
- Especially for cats: Pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter
- Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner.
The items for your pet should be included with your emergency kit for the human members of your family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information as well as food and water for at least three days.
If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.
- Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
- Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
- Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers. Note: It is best to allow animals a chance to become accustomed to vehicular travel so they are less frightened and easier to move.
- Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
- If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has developed a booklet, Saving the Whole Family: Disaster Preparedness, to help you avoid having to leave your animals behind in a disaster.
Protect Your Pet During a Disaster
- Bring your pets inside immediately.
- Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes. Feed the animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
- Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
- Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
- In an emergency, you may have to take your birds with you. Talk with your veterinarian or local pet store about special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given. Make sure that the bird is caged and the cage is covered by a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.
Caring for Your Pet 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 after a flood. 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.