It seems inconceivable to abandon our beloved animals in an emergency, but a recent survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that pet owners often find themselves with no other choice.
About 23% of the 4,000 pet owners polled in 2021 said they had to evacuate their homes because of a disaster or emergency. Nearly half of them left at least one pet behind, and 30% of those who left their pets said it was because they did not have enough time.
While most owners say they would bring their pet with them during an evacuation, less than half have a pet disaster preparedness plan in place to make sure they can see it through.
Animals are helpless in an emergency, which is why it’s essential to have a disaster plan that includes them. Do you know how to prepare your pets for a hurricane or other disaster?
While the safety and security of your loved ones comes first, here are some suggestions from AAA to keep your furry, scaled and feathered family members safe, too.
- Apply a pet rescue alert sticker to your window. These stickers can be purchased for dogs, cats, birds or multipet households. They inform rescuers and first responders there might be animals trapped inside.
- Create an emergency supply kit. This kit should include at least three days’ worth of food and water, medications and medical records (in a waterproof container), garbage bags, a picture of your pet in case you become separated, a leash, crate/carrier and anything else necessary for your pet’s survival.
- Microchip your dog or cat. Even an ID tag or collar can be lost or pulled off. A registered microchip might be the only way to be certain your pet can be identified during a disaster.
- Investigate places for your pets to stay. Because pets are not always allowed in emergency shelters, you should have a list of places your pet can stay in case of a natural disaster. When putting together your emergency evacuation plan for your pets, consider pet shelters, pet-friendly hotels and homes of relatives or friends outside the area where your pet could be sheltered.
- Bring your animals inside. When you hear that a storm or disaster is on its way, make sure your pets are in the house close to you. Dogs and cats can get confused and become disoriented during difficult times and might try to run away.
- Contain your pets. Put dogs in a room with the door closed and put cats in a carrier. The sound of thunder or the smell of smoke can frighten animals, and they might disappear under beds or in other parts of the house, making them difficult to find in a hurry.
- Make sure birds and small animals are secure. If you have a bird, try to get it into a cage and make sure their leg band is properly in place. For pets like rabbits, mice, hamsters, lizards and guinea pigs, the best thing is to latch them into their cages, so they can’t escape.
- Establish a buddy system. Arrange to exchange keys and information with a friend who also has a pet. That way, you can check on each other’s houses and pets in case there’s an emergency when one of you can’t make it home.
Pets are an important part of 70% of American homes, according to the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey. Show them the care, safety and respect they deserve when they need it most.
If you don’t already have a disaster plan in place, it’s important to get one established. Emergencies, especially those that may require an evacuation, like a hurricane, happen fast. Being prepared ahead of time ensures that you and your loved ones can get out of harm’s way quickly and safely. Ready.gov has all the information you need to get started.
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Do you have a pet disaster preparedness plan in place? Tell us in the comments.