If your animals are kept indoors or at home during the day, make sure that you have their information displayed on a small laminated sign near your front door.
"Fire Department. Animals live here. One cat, two dogs, fish, birds."
Pet leashes should be on a hook right at the front door so your dogs can quickly be secured.
Dogs will submit to their own leashes and a stranger much quicker than to a rescue rope. Your fireman already knows the magic words "WALK" and "LEASH".
Set up a buddy system with your neighbor. This works great for vacation pet-sitting too. In an emergency they (or you) will pick up the pets and meet at a pre-arranged location. Leave a note. "All animals evacuated! Signed, Your Neighbor."
When you have been exchanging pet sitting favors, you will already know each other's pets and have house keys. This may save you a new front door! Your buddy will be familiar with your home and know where your animals are likely to be. Let them know where you keep your pets' "Disaster Survival Box" and pet carriers.
Risk: Runaway Dogs
Hundreds of pets get lost every year when disasters strike. During the confusion dogs can travel great distances from home. They either run away trying to escape the chaos, or may be rescued by a Good Samaritan and taken to another safer location far far away. Statistics show many rescued dogs and cats are never returned to their owners, why? Because of lack of identification.
Your Pre-emptive Strike!
Check your pet's ID tag. Is it still legible? Did you remember to get a new one when you moved? Is there enough information to find you - even if your phone service is off? Does it have your home address?
Chips for Dogs! Microchips that is.
One of the greatest innovations today is that of microchipping. There is an army of shelters, vets, and rescue organizations who will return your pet from just about anywhere in the United States, if it has a chip. Yes, even from Hawaii - a year later, as happened to a cat. This life saving chip is the size of a grain of rice and injected just under your dog's skin. When a scanner is run over the dog it will ID the unique chip number. This number is indexed on a national database revealing your name, address and phone number that is accessible by vets and shelters everywhere. Some services even allow you access, for easy updates. To find a vet near you who microchips visit Muttshack.
Take a picture of your dog now and place it in a plastic bag with your "Pet Organizer". Every day your dog is not found is a day taken off his life at the shelter or a day being exposed out in the elements and in danger. You don't want to waste time looking for an old photo.
If your pet is injured, chances are that the emergency vet cannot help him until you are found. Keep your vet's information easily accessible and make him one of your first calls when your pet goes missing. If your dog regularly goes for check-ups, they will be able to identify him, either by sight or by reading his name on his tag and looking up your file.
The cost of an emergency should be the least of your worries. Get Pet Insurance in place.
Risk: Getting stranded
When moving your dogs to a safe location, evacuate pets early. Bring a safe carrier or crate for each pet.
Since pets are not allowed inside shelters for humans you may need to board them or take them to a friend. Boarding facilities will need proof of immunizations and distemper shots – find those in your pet's "Disaster Survival Box".
Risk: Lack of Water and Necessities
Your Dog's Disaster Survival Box
For each pet you need:
1. Pet Information Organizer Book/Folder with your pet's name, your address and phone number.
Add photo of your pet (laminated or in a plastic bag).
Make copies of current distemper and rabies shots, immunizations, and licenses. These are required by boarding facilities and you may need to board your dogs during an emergency. Add your Pet Insurance. Set yourself up with Pet Insurance if you don't have it already.
Update and replenish your business cards. You may need to exchange information with a lot of people when you are looking for your pet. You can write your pet's description on the back until you can get a flyer made.
Update your address book.
Pet Emergency Numbers: List your veterinarian, your local shelter, and animal control. Include fax numbers so you can fax them your flyers.
Alternate Housing Numbers: During the emergency you will need the names of boarding kennels, veterinary hospitals with kennels, and pet friendly hotels. Getting your pet into a secured environment quickly is the key, whether it is home or someplace like home. The longer they are out, the greater the chance that may get lost or injured.
2. Refresh your food and water storage supplies. Cans of dog or cat food. Food bowls. Water. Treats.
3. Repack your First Aid Kit. (General Medicines, Plasters, bandages, disinfectant, wet naps).
Learn a little Pet First Aid beforehand. Keep a first-aid book in your kit. Saving your pet's life is the stuff dreams are made of.
4. Check your "Equipment".
A Muzzle. Pets get anxious around strangers and the last thing you need is for another person or dog to get bit. A muzzle may also get you into No Pet establishments if they believe their patrons will be safe.
Consider adding in a lightweight chain and D-ring clips to facilitate leashing.
5. Comfort. A small blanket and a large black plastic bag. The bags could become ground cover or a raincoat for your dog. Bring a brush. A dried chew bone will keep your pet distracted during a long confinement in a cage. This is not the time to go on walkabouts.
6. Paper towels. Baggies. Add anything else you know your dog needs.
If your dog uses prescription medicines, you should repack your kit and refresh his supplies regularly.
Risk: Having a Really Bad Day
Keep your Pets Calm.
Pets can become fearful and agitated. During the evacuation, communicate with your pets and re-assure them that you will all be going back home. "There's no place like home - There's no place like home".
Risk: Standard Operating Procedures Not Available
Finding Your Lost Pet
If you lose your pet during the disaster, (or if you find one) things may be up to you entirely.
Take the photograph and make several copies. Post everywhere both near and far. Concentrate on areas where people congregate during the disaster.
Contact veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, animal control facilities and humane societies in you area. Fax your picture together with your business card!
The Internet and Blogs are becoming a great rescue tool. If you can get to a computer (try the library) do a word search for your city or area disaster, and post your information on the blog.