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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Keeping Your Pet Safe During Natural Disasters

This is a departure from my usual posts. I live in coastal North Carolina and like millions of others, I have had an eye on Hurricane Matthew this week. I have three rescue dogs, Simone (a collie), Eddie (a Jack Russell) and Lucy (a terrier/dachshund mix), all adopted through the Robeson County Humane Society. Two have made appearances in my books - Simone and Eddie.

So one of the issues I hold near and dear is animal rescue. Here are a few things to consider if you are in the path of a natural disaster like a hurricane:

  1. Dog Crates. If you have to leave your home for an emergency shelter, you'll be relieved to know that after Hurricane Katrina, legislation was enacted that requires emergency personnel to assist animals as well as people. H.R. 3858 (109th): Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 was passed ( which modified the Standards for State and Local Emergency Operational Plans to include “the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency in the provision of rescue, care, shelter and essential needs… to such pets and animals.” Even if your pet travels well in your vehicle, they can become disoriented or confused during a storm and when you reach the emergency shelter, you may need to keep your pet restrained - possibly for several days.
  2. Identification.
    Always keep identification on your pets. I have collars and harnesses with my dogs' names and my telephone number embroidered like this one at amazon. Keep tags on your pet, including proof they have had their shots. And microchip your pet. In the event of a disaster, they could become separated from you and their collar could be pulled off. Emergency personnel are required in many jurisdictions to scan lost pets for microchips. Check out Home Again for more information.
  3. Proof of Vaccinations. Place your pet's vaccination records into a clear zipped plastic bag and keep it with items you intend to take with you if you need to evacuate. You may be required to present them, especially if your pet must be boarded at an emergency shelter.
  4. Plan Ahead with Hotels. If you know you are going to evacuate, plan your route and call ahead to make certain the hotel will accept your pets. During natural disasters and emergencies, many hotels will waive their "no pets" policy.
  5. Pet Emergency Kit. Pack your pet's leashes - preferably one long and one short - along with their water dish, feeding bowl, food and bottled water. If they drink water from a storm surge, they can contract intestinal issues like giardia. Bring any pet medications as well.
  6. Beds and Toys.
    This is a very stressful time for your pet, just as it is for you. Bring along items that will comfort them, such as a blanket, their bed, and their favorite toys. (Shown at right: Simone chilling in her bed.)Bringing something for them to chew is particularly useful, as it helps to relieve their stress.
I can't imagine anyone leaving their pets behind to face a disaster on their own and yet, sadly, many do. During flooding, many dogs drowned who might have otherwise lived because their owners kept them tied or confined so they could not escape.

We know that animals feel pain - physical and emotional pain. If you have a pet, you have a legal obligation to care for it.

If you have fish aquariums, check out my other blog - Vicki's Angelfish - for tips on how to keep your fish alive during a power outage.

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books in several genres. An avid animal lover, she helped to raise money for the Robeson County Humane Society by auctioning off the role of a dog in her book, The Banker's Greed. Dogs are also featured throughout many of her books.