By Rebecca Guinn, CEO and founder of LifeLine Animal Project
September is National Preparedness Month, which reminds us how important it is to prepare for a disaster, whether natural or man-made. However, the care and well-being of pets is often an overlooked aspect. When planning for you and your family, it’s a good time to factor in the needs of your companion animals. Here are several tips to prepare your pet for an emergency or disaster.
Prepare to Take Shelter
The first step is ensuring your safe haven is pet-friendly. If staying at home, keep pets with you in a protected part of your house. Distressed pets often retreat to familiar places, so take note of your pet’s favorite hiding spots, both inside and outside the home. This will help you get them quickly inside or ready to evacuate. Even after dangerous weather has passed, keep pets leashed so they aren’t harmed by debris.
In case you have to leave your home, identify shelters in advance that accept pets, like pet-friendly hotels, boarding facilities and vet offices near your evacuation location or even a friend or relative’s home.
Ensure Pets are Licensed and Microchipped
The key to readying for an emergency is planning before it happens and that includes preparing in case your pet is separated from you.
One low-cost resource that directly improves owner return rates is pet licensing. In DeKalb County and Fulton County, the registration process is simple and can be completed by mail or on the websites for Fulton County Animal Services or DeKalb County Animal Services. Once licensed, pets are provided a unique ID number on a tag that attaches to their collars. Fulton and DeKalb County’s online licensing sites allow anyone to search for an ID number.
Licensing, along with microchipping, is an important safeguard in case of emergencies, and it’s also a best practice for pet owners in general. Make sure your contact information with the licensing and/or microchipping company, county and veterinarian is up-to-date. For more information, visit fultonanimalservices.com and dekalbanimalservices.com.
Create an Emergency Pet Care Kit
Just like a family’s emergency kit, owners should make a kit for their pets. Tailor the content to meet the individual needs of your pet, but we recommend several essentials like copies of all medical and licensing records, a list of emergency contacts, proof of pet ownership and a photo of you with your pet.
Include at least three days’ worth of food – and don’t forget a can opener and water and food bowls. When buying bottled water, make sure to buy enough for your family and your pet. Stock your kit with sanitation supplies – like kitty litter and boxes or newspapers – as well as leashes, harnesses and carriers in case you need to transport pets. Keep a first aid kit and extra supplies of pet medications, as well as the rest of these items, in a portable, waterproof container. It’s also a good idea to include a few comfort items and toys.
As manager of Fulton County and DeKalb County Animal Services, we know that despite all of this planning, pets sometimes are separated from their owners. If your pet is lost, immediately visit the county shelter in your area and then follow up every three or four days. Be resourceful and get the word out in a three to five mile radius around your home by hanging brightly colored signs with large lettering, a photo and key information.
Disaster preparedness affects you and your pets, so the best practice for responsible pet ownership is to take the initiative to create a plan and assess the resources available.
Rebecca Guinn is the CEO and founder of LifeLine Animal Project, a leading metro-Atlanta animal nonprofit promoting lifesaving animal welfare solutions through its programs and management of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services.