08/01/2012 - By Gayle M. Irwin
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We've all watched the scenes on TV – flames licking at walls of homes only to consume the house in an instant or floodwaters rushing toward doorsteps, swallowing the residence in mere moments. Hurricanes and tornadoes wreak havoc every year. Who can forget those scenes of Hurricane Katrina with streets awash with water or the forests of Colorado ablaze, people fleeing and animals left behind.
Annually, thousands of companion animals lose their families and families lose their beloved pets because of events such as these. Yet, by being prepared, a person can evacuate not only themselves but also their animals, even with just a few minutes notice. Disaster can and does happen.
My husband and I lived near Garden Creek a few years ago. I came home after work one evening to find a fire had ignited not far from the backyard fence. Our two cats and one dog were inside the home. I was able to get one cat and our blind dog Sage into my car immediately, but the other cat, who probably smelled the smoke and heard the panic in my voice, hid under the bed. The fire department had been notified but had not yet arrived. I reached for the cat as she lay under the bed, but frightened, she clawed my hand. I dropped her, and she ran into another room. It took two of us to get her. I learned an important lesson that day: keep pet carriers (and gloves!) handy in case of an emergency!
Here are some other important natural disaster tips from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals):
• Get a rescue alert sticker. This lets people know pets are inside your house. Greg and I have two, one at the front window and one at the back.
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• Arrange a safe haven for your pets in your area and along an evacuation route. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it's important to determine ahead of time where you will take your pets. Ask your vet for a list of boarding kennels or make a list of hotels inside and outside of town that accept pets. You might also talk with friends and family to find out if they'd be willing to take your pet in an emergency.
• Create an evacuation kit not only for the humans in your family but also for your pets, and make sure everyone knows where the kits are. Also, be sure these kits are easy to carry and are labeled. Things to include in your pet's kit are:
1. food and water dishes
2. 3 to 7 days worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food
3. garbage bags for clean up
4. disposable litter pans and cat litter if you have a cat (aluminum roasting pans work well)
5. extra collar/harnesses and leashes
6. photocopies of your pets' medical records
7. any medications your pet takes
8. bottled water, for both people and pets
Consider keeping some or all of these in your vehicle as well as clothing for yourself and your family.
Keep pet carriers and gloves in a coat closet near your door… or at the very least, in the laundry room or some other room near the front or back door.
If you have horses or other livestock, keep a horse trailer close to your house. Having to get the trailer and your livestock all at the same time when you need to evacuate wastes time; having at least the trailer nearby and ready to hitch saves time and allows you to round up your animals more quickly and efficiently.
Although we can't foresee when or if we will ever need to evacuate our homes due to flooding, fire or other disaster, it's best to be prepared, just in case. Our pets depend upon us, just as our children do, and keeping their safety as well as our own in mind by being prepared can keep a major disaster from becoming a deadly one.
For more information about preparing you and your pets for a natural disaster, visit these websites: