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Once again, April showers have brought May and June flowers along with severe weather across the United States. All over the weather channels and news stations, I am seeing very vivid reminders of severe weather and natural disasters that have unfortunately damaged millions of dollars’ worth of property and taken far too many lives.

What defines an “emergency” or a “disaster?”  Oxford dictionary says an “emergency” is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. It continues by saying “Your quick response in an emergency could be a lifesaver.”  Oxford also says a “disaster” is a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.

Both are particularly good definitions of an “emergency” and of a “disaster,” however, neither definition says it is exclusive to people.  Have you ever thought about all the things that could be an “emergency” or a “disaster” around your home and/or kennel? These events don’t have to involve wind, rain, sleet, snow, or tornados.

In this article, lets focus on what could be an “emergency” or a “disaster” for you and/or your dog(s) or other animals. Most of my emergencies happen after business hours, in the evenings, on the weekends or over the holidays. This leads to my next questions, which hopefully will help you plan for when an emergency or disaster happens.

Question:  Who is helping you or taking care of your dogs and animals if:

  1. You go on vacation?
  2. You become incapacitated and end up in the hospital?
  3. You are unexpectedly detained, arrested, or unable to return to your home/kennel?
  4. There is a train derailment or a traffic accident and you are evacuated or prohibited from coming back to your home/kennel or neighborhood?
  5. There is an explosion or gas leak which causes a hazardous or toxic waste spill or fumes near your home/kennel?
  6. Your home/kennel has a fire?
  7. You are killed in a traffic or other transportation incident?
  8. You suddenly die of natural causes?
  9. You have an animal disease outbreak?
  10. An unknown person turns your dogs loose from the yard/kennel/primary enclosure/crates?

The 10 things listed above are much more likely to happen to you and your animals, than your home/kennel being struck by a natural disaster, like a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, or earthquake.

Create Plan of Action & Detailed Contact List: Do you have a written plan of action for your dog sitter should one of your dogs get hurt while you are away on vacation? What if a dog has a challenging time whelping in the middle of the night on a long holiday weekend? Do you have your first, second and third choice veterinarian telephone numbers posted in an obvious place?

What happens should the power or the air conditioning go out on a sizzling hot summer day?  Do you have the telephone number posted for your electrician, plumber and heat and air repair persons? If you have a well, do not forget to list a contact number for that repair if needed!

Do you have a list of fellow dog friends and their telephone numbers posted to help you in an emergency or a disaster? Could your friends help you round up dogs if a “animal extremist” turned all your animals loose?

The greatest emergency or disaster risk any dog/kennel owner will face is the threat of a disease outbreak. This will be devastating to your animals, and you will have a loss of life, if not acted upon quickly, efficiently and with a plan of action before it happens. With the number of cases of Canine Influenza on the rise across the United States, you CANNOT wait to make a disaster preparedness plan for this scenario.

Think about the 10 items above. Chances are you will be able to think of more scenarios that may be a potential risk for an “emergency or a disaster” in your home. A disaster preparedness plan should be unique to you and your animals. There are no right or wrong answers. Just remember the most important rule is “Health and human safety first!”  Call 9-1-1 if necessary, and then set your written plan into action. If you do not have a written plan that you have outlined and practiced, you will lose valuable time, time that can save lives. Make a difference in your dogs lives and the people’s lives they touch.  Make your plan today!

For more information on developing an emergency/disaster plan go to: Developing an Emergency or Disaster Preparedness Plan

Stacy Mason is an AKC Senior Breeder Relations Field Representative.