Guest post by Laura McLain Madsen, DVM
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Do you own one (or more) of the 69 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in America? Or the 8 million pet birds, 4 million horses, or 2 million pet turtles? For some people, these are merely animals, but for 60% of Americans they are beloved furry (or feathery, or scaly) family members. For some families that decide not to have children or to postpone having children, the pet is the child.
Some preppers only keep animals if they can protect the family, protect the food, or be food themselves. I think animals serve a broader function as companions. A disaster is by definition a stressful event, and an animal companion can relieve stress and provide comfort, especially for children.
Plan ahead for the logistics of evacuating with your pet. Does your dog get carsick? Do you have a secure carrier for your cat? Do you have a trailer for your horse or can you borrow a neighbor’s? How will you clean up the droppings from your pet goat? Does your pet iguana attack people it doesn’t know?
In general, shelters for people do not accept animals except for service dogs. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was enacted after Hurricane Katrina and mandates that communities include animals in their disaster planning, but that doesn’t guarantee that there will be housing for your pet. Local animal organizations may set up animal shelters adjacent to human shelters (called “co-sheltering”) but you will be responsible for feeding, watering and walking your pet.
Each pet who will be evacuating with your family should have its own 72-hour kit. In it you should include:
- Food: Dry kibble in labeled zip-top bags, or cans (check the expiration date and don’t forget a can opener). A few companies even make pet energy bars; these aren’t nutritionally balanced for long-term feeding but for the short-term they provide calories and nutrients. For a horse, you’ll need to transport hay and grain or know a source to buy them at your destination.
- Water: Just as you plan one gallon per person per day, you should also plan one gallon per pet per day for dogs and cats. If you have a large animal like a horse, they will need a much larger amount. Industrial garbage cans can be used to hold water for large animals.
- Important papers:
- Description of the animal (name, species, breed, color, sex, age, distinguishing features).
- Proof of vaccinations. Shelters will typically require vaccinations, and immunizations will keep your pet safe from contagious diseases. Talk to your veterinarian about recommended vaccinations for your pet; these may include distemper, parvo and rabies for dogs, distemper and rabies for cats, and West Nile and rabies for horses.
- Proof of a Coggin’s test for horses (a test for equine infectious anemia, a contagious blood disease).
- Registration and licensing papers.
- List of shelters, boarding facilities, equestrian centers, stables, and pet-friendly hotels within a 50-mile radius.
- Current photos of the pet. Ideally, include photos taken from both sides (see photo), the front and the back, with the animal standing in good lighting. Also include photos that show you and your pet together, to help establish ownership.
- Bedding, towels, blankets.
- Bowls for food and water (light-weight, collapsible bowls are available in pet and camping stores).
- Cage, carrier or kennel for each pet. Collapsible kennels might be easier to store, or you can use the carrier to hold the pet’s 72-hour kit until you need it.
- Litter box and kitty litter for cats. Look for a small plastic litter box that can fit in the cat’s carrier/kennel.
- Trash bags, paper towels.
- Can opener.
- Muzzle. Even gentle pets can become aggressive if they are stressed or in pain. Soft cloth muzzles are available at pet stores.
- Brushes for longer-haired pets.
- Leash, extra collar, harness, etc.
- For large animals: hoof care tools, fly spray, halters, lead ropes, pans, buckets, twitch, leg wraps.
- First aid kit (see photo):
- Bandage material and nonstick wound dressings.
- Claw clipper.
- Styptic powder to stop bleeding (e.g., from a torn claw).
- Diphenhydramine for allergic reactions (liquid or tablets).
- Eye wash (sterile saline, not contact lens solution).
- Cortisone cream.
- Triple antibiotic cream.
- Syringe with tsp and ml markings.
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting in case of poisoning.
- Any current prescription medications (such as for pain, inflammation, seizures, heart, etc.).
- Probiotic. Many dogs get diarrhea from stressful events and a probiotic (the “good” intestinal bacteria) can prevent this. You can use a probiotic meant for humans, such as Lactobacillus (1 billion cells per day for dogs).
- Pepto Bismol for diarrhea.
- Meclizine for motion sickness.
- Flea/tick preventative medication.
It’s also important to make sure your pet has positive identification at all times. This will help ensure your pet is returned to you if you get separated, and will be proof of ownership if the animal is stolen. Identification might include:
- Tags on the collar for dogs and cats.
- Tags on the halter for horses or other large animals.
- Microchip: A microchip is a tiny RFID chip that transmits a number when scanned with a radio frequency scanner. The number links in a database to your contact information. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted with a syringe and needle (under the skin on the back of the shoulders in cats and dogs, in the breast muscle in birds, and in the neck muscle in horses). Any species of animal can be microchipped.
- Ear tags for cattle, which also utilize RFID technology.
- Permanent marker on the shell or scales of a turtle or other reptile.
- Spray paint on the hooves of large animals.
- Leg band on birds.
- Brands for large animals.
Finally, you should take your pets with you any time you have to evacuate. Even a small-scale, supposedly short-term evacuation, such as a gas leak in your neighborhood, could turn into a larger scale or longer term incident. You may not be allowed by authorities to return to your home to collect your pets if the evacuation is prolonged.