Preparedness Saves Pets' Lives
By Marcy Zingler, AKC corporate project manager
Be prepared! The Scouts’ motto is one that everyone, especially pet owners, needs to adopt. Throughout the years, Scouts have taken an oath to live a philosophy of gathering knowledge to be ready for any contingency. The reasoning: careful and thorough planning would save lives. It did, it does, it will!
Two lucky dogs on their way to rejoin their owners following Hurricane Katrina.
Never has preparedness been more necessary than today, not just for Scouts, but for us all. Hurricane Katrina became the rallying cry for acknowledging, “Yes, it can happen in my backyard.” Preparedness is essential for your life and the lives of your pets. Your pets depend entirely on you, so PREPARE.
- Plan – all aspects of your own emergency response for both you and your pets. Ideally, design for two scenarios, one if you are confined to your home for several days and another if you and your pet have to evacuate. Elements of these plans include, but are not limited to, supplies (including food and medications), finding the safest parts of your home and escape routes if you are ordered to evacuate or your home becomes unsafe.
- Research – various destinations as well as escape routes. Investigate routes in several directions, in the event that one or more may be blocked and impassible. Practice a “dry run” for each route so that if you have to improvise, you will be able to do it quickly and without jeopardy.
- Equip – your home and your vehicle with emergency supplies and provisions. Include an easily readable map with routes highlighted, waterproof containers for food and medications; water; bowls; leashes; and collapsible carriers or crates. Don’t forget medical records, permanent identification (microchip for pets), a photo and description of your pet, as well as proof of ownership. A First Aid kit is also a necessity; most of the contents can be used for both humans and pets.
- Practice – emergency situations and include your pets. Try to do a drill for each type of emergency that may hit your area. Over a period of time, practice until you can get the start-to-finish time down to a minimum. Experiment with pretending to be confined to your home. Make it a game for your pets whether in home or on the road, and your pets will be more at ease if the real thing strikes.
- Add – subtract and change supplies periodically. Medications that are out-of-date become ineffective at best and toxic at worst. Food can become stale or worse. Even water stored long-term can take on the taste of its container. Consider changing bedding for crates, and check to see that leads and collars still fit and are in good repair.
- Review – all plans and preparations regularly. “Safe havens” may change or cease to exist. Roads may be closed or new ones built. Landmarks may be torn down or names changed. If friends have volunteered to help, make sure those offers are still viable. Your plans as well as your vehicle preparation should be appropriate for various temperatures and seasons.
- Establish – an ongoing relationship with your local authorities, such as offices of emergency management (OEMs) and dog clubs in your area. FEMA has said that in times of emergency, jurisdiction will be ceded to local authorities where the disaster occurs. Communication with other clubs in your area will create a team effect that can avoid duplication of resources and efforts, as well as produce strength and a more efficient result.
Public Education Coordinators are at the forefront of information resources. When you present emergency preparedness information to clubs or civic groups, you may be the sole source of preparedness facts for many of those in your audience. Since disaster preparedness is essential to all pet owners, the awareness you raise and the preparedness you foster can and will save pets’ lives.