The second Saturday in May was declared "National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day" by the Citizen Corps division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), following the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
As a result of that devastating storm, some 250,000 pets and their people became separated, and countless animals perished. Half of the area's residents who declined rescue efforts did so to stay behind with their beloved pets. Many of them lost their lives, but it didn't have to be that way.
The lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina have helped us better recognize the importance of caring for our pets during a disaster. Whether a pet suffers an injury, gets lost, or requires evacuation, your preparedness in these situations will allow you to remain calm and think clearly, when emergencies arise.
This year, the country will observe National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day on May 14, and we can't think of a better way to honor those lost pets than by helping others save their own from disaster.
What Constitutes a Disaster?
Disaster comes in many forms. Depending on what region of the country you live in, a disaster may come in the form of a hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, earthquake, wildfire, or flood. Disastrous home emergencies are not uncommon and can include a house fire, gas or carbon monoxide leak, or some medical emergency that can leave you injured or incapacitated and unable to care for your pet.
Having an emergency preparedness plan for these situations will help to ensure your and your pet's safety before, during, and after an emergency.
Exotic Pet Emergency Preparedness Kits
An emergency preparedness kit is one of the most critical pieces of an emergency preparedness plan for exotic pets. Because exotic pets have different needs, some of the items listed in the checklist below may not apply. If you think we've missed anything or have an idea to share, don't hesitate to contact us.
Your exotic pet emergency preparedness kit should include the following:
A week's supply of pet food (or more) per animal: Dry pet food should be stored in airtight, waterproof containers. Canned foods should have an easy-to-open "flip top."
A week's water supply (or more) per pet: It is common for water supplies to become contaminated during a natural disaster. Never let your pet drink from floodwaters or any possibly contaminated source. Your pets should always drink the same water that you drink.
A two-week pet medication supply (or more): If your pet regularly takes any medication, be sure to include it in your kit.
Water and food bowls: Providing your pet with food and water in a way that is comfortable for them is crucial to their survival and mental well-being.
Copies of critical medical records for each pet: Your pet's medical records are essential documents that need to be protected and stay with them wherever they go. These documents should include vaccination information, which should always remain updated.
An exotic pet first aid kit: As we mentioned before, different pets have different needs, which is particularly true for first aid. If you don't already have one, there are many resources online to help you put together the best first aid kit for your pet.
Photographs of your pets: Pet parents should keep high-quality pictures (frontal/profile shots) in their emergency preparedness kit. If possible, these pictures should include distinguishing marks. You should also have family photos which can help determine ownership in case of separation.
A shoebox-sized litter box: This item is specific for exotic pets such as rabbits and ferrets.
Written veterinary service authorization for buddies and pet sitters: Pet parents should always have a "buddy system" in place with a trusted neighbor where you can care for each other's pets in an emergency. Be sure to exchange important information about your pets and provide written authorization to allow your "buddy" or pet sitter to obtain medical treatment for your pet on your behalf.
Emergency Preparedness Kits for Birds and Reptiles
For pet parents of a bird or a reptile, in addition to most of the items listed above, your exotic pet emergency preparedness kit should also include:
Small, escape-proof pet carriers for each pet
A spray bottle to mist reptiles and birds
A battery-operated external source of heat for reptiles (with extra batteries)
Newspaper or another form of cage liner
A hygrometer and a digital thermometer
Other Ways to Ensure Pet Emergency Preparedness
The best way to ensure family pet safety in an emergency or disaster is to put a plan in place now. In addition to having a pet emergency preparedness kit on hand, there are other steps you should take as well.
Be sure to discuss your pet emergency preparedness plan with everyone in your family, including neighbors or anyone else involved in your pet's life.
Designate one family member to institute your pet preparedness plan in an emergency. It is a big responsibility, as this person will oversee pet coordination.
Prepare your pets by familiarizing them with their cages and carriers, as you will want them to enter quickly and willingly in an emergency.
Make sure that all family pets will fit into your car. If they cannot, you'll need an alternate evacuation plan.
Be sure to identify several locations to take your pets if you need to evacuate. These can include a veterinary clinic, exotic pet boarding services, or homes of family members and friends.
Run emergency drills to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The Importance of Pet Emergency Preparedness
As pet parents, our pets depend on us for safety and protection. They trust us. In a disaster or an emergency, these vulnerable family members will seek security and direction from us. We must prepare to be there for them when they need us the most.
Hopefully, we'll never have to use our pet emergency preparedness kits or put our emergency plans into action. However, with these helpful hints, you and your family will be ready for any emergency, and everyone in your home, including your pets, will be safe and secure should a crisis occur.
Next time you are away from home for a trip, call us to set up your pet care and rest assured we are ready for any emergency that may come our way.