The Edmond Sun

September 9, 2013

Weather emergency plan must include pets

By Trisha Gedon
Special to The Sun

STILLWATER — Oklahomans are more than familiar with the damage that can be caused when tornadoes, large hail and straight line winds hit their communities.

It is important for everyone to have a weather emergency plan in place, and to make sure that plan includes everyone in the family, even the furry, feathered and finned members.

Dr. Joe Howell, Oklahoma State University interim continuing education veterinarian, said pet owners should take extra precautions to prepare for weather-related and other emergencies.

“The time to make a plan is before a storm or other emergency arises,” Howell said. “Since we’re already well into severe weather season, it’s important to get an emergency plan in place immediately if you don’t have one already. While you’re stocking up on bottled water and fresh batteries for the flashlights, make sure you have all of the essentials on hand to care for your pets should you need to evacuate to a safe place.”

Keep in mind that you may have to leave your home for several days, depending on the emergency situation, and your pets will need to accompany you. Pets that are left behind in disaster situations can be injured or lost.

Items to have on hand and assembled in an emergency preparedness kit include pet food, water, a photo of the animal and a strong leash and muzzle. An emergency preparedness kit could be a backpack or plastic container that is easily transported. It also is a good idea to have a record of current vaccinations and medical history with the contact information of the pet’s veterinarian in the kit. Make sure you have proper identification on your pet, such as a collar with ID tags that include the owner’s name and phone number. Microchip identification is highly recommended to ensure your pet is properly identified in case of an emergency.

It is not just dogs and cats that need to have some type of identification and records in the event of an emergency. Birds, small mammals and reptiles should have photos and medical records in an emergency preparedness kit. Birds that are being evacuated should be carried in a covered cage to minimize stress. This also will help keep the birds warm.

“In the event that you have to evacuate your home, be sure you have identified a safe place to go, and remember Red Cross disaster shelters can’t accept pets. Check around in your area at different shelters and inquire about pet acceptance,” he said. “If a shelter isn’t available and you need to stay in a hotel for a few days, keep a list handy of the nearby hotels that will allow pets. Other emergency shelter options for pets include a boarding facility or the home of friends or family.”

Howell said pets can react to changes in their environment and stressful situations by trying to run away or hide. In an effort to get away, they may bite or scratch their owners or the person trying to help them. Always keep pets under control with a leash or in a carrier while you are evacuating and at your safe place, especially if it is a public location.

“Pets are part of the family and rely on their owners to take care of them and keep them safe,” Howell said. “Make sure your family emergency plan includes all of your pets.”