Protecting Your Pets In a Disaster

So have you missed me?  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  While not a good excuse, I’m going to blame life’s other commitments as the reason I have written recently.  I know I’ve missed my blogging and I hope you’ve missed my blogging too.

One of my life’s other commitments came to fruition this past week.  A year ago, my search and rescue team (Eureka Fire Protection District Search and Rescue) began planning for the 15th annual Canine Search and Recovery (CSAR) Seminar.  This past week the seminar finally took place.  The weather and fall foliage here in the St. Louis area were simply spectacular all week.  We welcomed over 90 search and rescue dog handlers and their canines from all over the United States for a great week of training.  One of the more unique training opportunities we were able to offer attendees was the chance to train within the Six Flags Amusement park located in Eureka, Missouri.  A traditional fun activity that attendees were able to enjoy was the charitable auction that took place Wednesday evening.  Everyone had a great time and we raised some money for our search and rescue team too.

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Due to my search and rescue involvement working with dogs (and horses) I found a recent article very interesting and thought I’d feature it on my blog.  The article was titled “Japan Earthquake Caused Long-Lasting Stress in Dogs”.  In the article, Stephanie Pappas writes about a new study that found that family dogs caught up in the Japan earthquake of 2011 and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima showed signs of stress not inconsistent with PTSD long after the events.

The research compared abandoned dogs rescued from Fukushima with non-disaster affected dogs abandoned in 2009 and 2010, before the earthquake. The dogs that lived through the disaster had stress hormone levels five to 10 times higher than the dogs that were simply abandoned or found as strays.

Researchers who conducted the study wrote that “Long-term care and concern regarding the psychological impact of disasters appears necessary in humans and companion animals.”

The issue of how we deal with our pets in a disaster is a fairly recent one.  And even more recent is how to deal with live stock in a disaster.   The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several free Independent Study  courses available online that address dealing with animals (both pets and livestock) in a disaster.

According to FEMA’s Ready.gov website, if you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Here are some other tips about how to care for your pets in a disaster:

Get ready now

  • Put together a basic disaster kit for your pet(s)
    • Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. People need at least one gallon of water per person per day. While your pet may not need that much, keep an extra gallon on hand if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed.
    • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit. A pet first aid book is also a good idea.
    • Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop, garbage bags to collect all pets’ waste.
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape. Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. (Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time.) Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets—who may also need blankets or towels for bedding and warmth as well as special items, depending on their species.
    • Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited.
    • Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.
    • Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.
    • Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach.

After the disaster

  • Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.
  • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
  • If your community has been flooded, search your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Stressed wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.

Well, I expect to be back on track with regular blogging on November 1.  I hope you’ll be back with me.  Until then … stay safe.

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One Response to Protecting Your Pets In a Disaster

  1. LaFaye Young says:

    Great article. Sorry we didn’t run into each other Tuesday at CSAR. Mama Yuk

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