By: Carrie Dow

We see it daily on the news: Natural and man-made disasters such as wildfires, floods and earthquakes. They can happen anywhere anytime. We all need to be prepared in the event of an emergency and that includes our pets. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has put together some tips for pet parents to get our pets ready during an emergency. With wildfires burning around the world and hurricane season upon us, now is the time to get organized.

One of the most important things pet parents can do, according to the IFAW, is provide proper identification for both themselves and their pets. Then if the worst happens and pets get separated from their owners, rescuers and other emergency personnel can reunite them with their families. The IFAW highly recommends microchipping because collars are easy for pets to lose.

The IFAW also recommends putting together a pet kit, especially for older pets who may have medication or animals with special food needs that might not be found at emergency shelters. Items the kit should include are as follows:

  • Copies of vet records, licenses and vaccinations along with phone numbers
  • Picture of you with your pet
  • Pet First Aid kit
  • Medications and foods your vet has prescribed
  • Extra leash and collar with identification
  • Waste clean-up supplies or a small litterbox for cats
  • Extra bedding and toys to make your pet comfortable
  • The IFAW reminds people to put important items and papers inside plastic bags for protection.

Another important tip for pet parents from the IFAW is to practice your escape plan with all the members of your family. Have your pet kit in an easy to remember area with any carriers or harnesses that will be used. In advance, locate pet friendly hotels, shelters and boarding facilities. If you have to evacuate with cats and cannot access a proper carrier or don’t have time to get the cat or cats into the carrier, the IFAW says use a pillow case instead.

Unfortunately we are not always home when disaster strikes. Leave emergency instructions with neighbors or other family. Another tip is to place an emergency decal on your front window or door indicating the number and types of pets you have so emergency personnel can rescue your pets when you are not home.

Along with the tips for dogs and cats, such as having a pet kit, here are some specific tips for other types of companionn animals:

Horses – Like smaller pets, have a horse emergency kit ready to take with you. Have multiple boarding locations known in advance so you have a place to go. Also, practice loading horses into trailers so they feel more secure and safe during an actual evacuation.

Small mammals and birds – For pets with a multi-connecting cage system, keep a stopper handy so you can quickly leave with a single cage and have a small portable cage ready for birds.

Fish – Keep a battery-operated aerator or small generator to run tank air pumps if the power fails.

Reptiles – Keep a small generator to run heating and lighting equipment to ensure the animal’s proper environment.

One final important point, during an emergency the IFAW says ALWAYS take your pets with you if you have to evacuate. If it isn’t safe enough for you to stay, it is definitely not safe for your pets. Animals left behind are susceptible to injury or even death. Even if they survive the disaster, other issues such as contaminated food, air or water, disease, starvation and predators can harm pets.

Founded in 1969, the IFAW is committed to saving individual animals, animal populations and habitats all over the world. When disaster strikes the IFAW provides aid to stranded animals and will rescue animals in the midst trouble from both natural and man-made disasters anywhere in the world. The IFAW also works with local communities to help them prepare. The IFAW currently has projects in more than 40 countries. (See previous IPE article Animal welfare groups continue their work in Haiti)

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