When I was 10 years old, I came home one day to find my parents playing with a German shepherd puppy. German shepherds, as you probably are already picturing in your mind, have that ever alert, Rin Tin Tin-ny readiness. Their ears perk up like satellite dishes, and their stance always seems to be saying, “Don’t worry, beloved owner. I’m already pointed towards the nearest police station.” Some even look bright enough to help file your taxes.
Our dog, however, looked a little more like, well, just a dog. Her perky ears and alert stance seemed to say, “Huh?” She would have been virtually useless in any emergency situation, unless that emergency situation somehow involved her running in circles or rooting through the garbage for popsicle wrappers. But if there had been an emergency, we would have still saved her, because she was a part of our family.
Often, when planning for natural disasters or emergencies, we leave our pets out. We plan for disasters like earthquakes, floods, or even the loss of a job by having survival foods, 72-hour kits, and storing clean water, but then we get to the day of need and realize we forgot the Alpo (dog food).
- Prepare a small traveling kit for your animal. Realistically speaking, it doesn’t need to be as comprehensive as the kit you’d prepare for a child, but one to two weeks of canned food, a minor first aid kit (with pet-specific emergency supplies), an extra collar/leash, clean water, medication, a blanket, and a small toy should do the trick for most emergencies.
- Choose designated caregivers, or designate safe places to leave your pets in an emergency. Find nearby places that will accommodate animals, especially in times of crisis—kennels, shelters, friends, relatives, even motels—and write that information down.
- Keep your pet’s identification info up-to-date. This includes tags, collars, urgent medical needs, and your contact info if it gets lost during the crisis.
- Bring the pet indoors at the first sign of a disaster. According to the ASPCA, pets can “become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.” At a time like that, with so many other things to worry about, you don’t want to add a lost pet to the list.
If your pet means as much to you as our dog did to us (and I’m sure your pet does), don’t put them in the doghouse and leave them out of your emergency preparedness plans.