A new poll conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals indicates that owners need to seriously incorporate their pets when it comes to disaster planning especially when evacuations orders are handed out.
The poll found that 35 percent of dog and cat owners have no plans for their pets during a forced evacuation; 42 percent of owners said they would not evacuate without their pets; 39 percent said they would leave their pets behind and 19 percent had no idea what they would do.
The results do not shock emergency management officials since many learned first-hand after Hurricane Katrina that some pet owners will not leave an evacuation area if they are forced to leave their pets behind. Additionally, for some pet owners, without a plan in place they would be forced to leave their pet behind. To address this, especially since September is disaster preparedness month, the ASPCA is urging pet owners to develop a plan and figure out, in advance, where they can bring their pets if they had to evacuate.
Pet owners in New York who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irene last week brought their pets en mass as the city temporarily revoked it’s no pets policy and allowed leashed dogs and pets in carriers onto the transit system. This resulted in hundreds of pets being brought to New York shelters which were prepared with crates and animal care teams.
In addition, the ASPCA is also urging pet owners to get microchips for their pets since it is the best way to be tracked down if they are separated from their pets. The poll indicates that only 28 percent of dog owners and 24 percent of cat owners have microchipped their pets and more shocking, 21 percent of dog owners and 46 percent of cat owners say their pets have no ID that is on them all the time, like a collar and name tag.
Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s senior director of field investigations and response team, said the ASPCA recovered 1,300 lost or abandoned dogs and cats after the Joplin, MO tornado and less than five percent of those lost pets were microchipped. Of those pets, only 500 were reunited with their families, the rest were adopted out. Rickey said the pets that ended up at the shelter were rescued, found as strays or dropped off by owners who had lost their homes from the tornado.
“Always evacuate with your pets,” Rickey said. “If it’s not safe for you to stay, it’s probably not safe for your pet.”
The ASPCA offers these tips for pet owners (for more information click here):
- Get a rescue sticker. This sticker is placed on a window of your home to alert rescue workers there are pets inside your house.
- Arrange a safe haven. Not all Red Cross shelters accept pets so make arrangements ahead of time.
- Carry emergency supplies and traveling kits that contain:
- Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include, or visit the ASPCA Store to buy one online)
- 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
- Litter or paper toweling
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Pet feeding dishes
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
- Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)
- 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.
- Choose “Designated Caregivers.”
- Evacuation Preparation. Plan for a worst case scenario as you may not know right away when you can return home. Have your pets microchipped with collars and tags.
- Geographic and Climatic Considerations. If you live in Tornado Alley or where they are expecting the “Big One” plan accordingly.