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Your Happy Pet: Develop a pet disaster plan

Original Publication Date: June 16, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Hurricane season officially started June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Even though Phillip J. Klotzbach and William Gray, the tropical team of Colorado State University, predicts below average hurricane activity in 2014, risk still exists for those along the coast.

Other parts of the country face different types of disasters. Wild fires are rampant in Arizona and California, and tornados threaten the Midwest. Other states struggle with floods.

There is usually little time to prepare for a catastrophe so it is wise to plan ahead for your potential needs and also those of your pets.

If you have to evacuate your home, please do not leave your pets behind. They may not be able to survive on their own. If they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

Take a little time now to design a disaster plan for your pets. In the event of a calamity, you can face it with confidence knowing you have an appropriate plan and the materials to implement it.

Pet ID tags are a must at all times. They should be up to date and securely attached to your pet's collar. A pet with a microchip is even safer as he can be identified even if tags are lost.

You will want to take your pet with you if you have to leave town due to a disaster. Get him used to going into a carrier and taking occasional short rides so he is comfortable getting into a carrier and the car. Make going in the car fun if possible or at least acceptable.

At the first sign of an impending disaster, bring your pet inside. Have a secure pet carrier and leash handy. A frightened pet will feel more secure in his carrier, and you will be free to focus on your evacuation plan.

Many emergency shelters do not allow pets so plan ahead and make a list of motels and hotels in your evacuation area that allow pets. Always leash your pets in new places. Loose pets are more likely to be lost or injured by debris or other hazards.

Have your veterinarian's and local animal shelter's phone numbers and a current photo of your pet handy in case he is lost. You should also keep a pet disaster kit packed in case of emergency. It should include pet food (moist or canned food reduces the amount of water your pet will need), bottled water, medications, veterinary records, a can opener, food dishes, a pet first aid kit, scissors (with blunt ends), a small flashlight, a towel or blanket (large enough to transport your pet), other supplies you need for your pet on a daily basis, and a litter pan and litter if you have a cat.

There is often little warning of an impending natural disaster. Be prepared for the unexpected and have a plan for you and your family members including those with four legs!

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at