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Pet Safety and Natural Disasters

Brown German Shepherd with big brown eyes (768x502)

It doesn’t matter where you live — earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires and floods happen around the world every day and affect thousands of people and their pets. In case of a natural disaster, you’ll want a plan for your family, and of course, your pet. A few basic precautionary measures can help your pet stay safe and with the family in the event the unthinkable happens.

Get an ID Tag

The most important thing you can do for your pet before a disaster occurs is to make sure they have proper identification.  This means having an ID tag containing your current info attached to their collar which they wear at all times. Some companies offer customizable collars with your pet’s information printed directly on the fabric for an added layer of protection. Just make sure your pet never takes his or her collar off, even in the house. A pet with an ID tag indicates to emergency crews that your animal is a pet that belongs to a family and not wild, which could mean the difference between getting rescued or not.

Get your Pet Microchipped

Because an ID tag can come off or become damaged during an emergency, you also need to get your pet microchipped. A microchip is a small device about the size of a grain of rice that is inserted under your pet’s skin and can be obtained at some pet stores or the vet’s office. To be effective, the microchip must be registered to a person so he or she can be contacted in the event the animal is lost.

Don’t Wait to Vaccinate

Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date to reduce their risk of sickness and disease. There are so many unknowns in a disaster. If you are evacuated, your pet may not be able to come with you to shelter and may be held in boarding with other animals whose health status is unknown. If your home is destroyed, your pet may be lost and living outside for a time and subjected to the elements, dirty water supply or worse. Be safe, not sorry, and vaccinate.

Get a Pet Emergency Kit

An emergency kit for your pet is a great thing to keep in your house in general, but becomes a critical item during a natural disaster. You’ll find many of the same items in a pet emergency kit as you would a human one – gauze, bandages, food – but add your pet’s paperwork in too. Make copies your pet’s  immunization records, microchip information and vet and emergency contact numbers. Whether you buy one online or make your own, an emergency kit is one of those things you never want to have to use, but should always have.

If you Find a Lost Pet…

If you encounter a pet that seems to be roaming aimlessly, proceed with caution. The animal is probably frightened and stressed, so he or she needs to be approached with extreme care. Once it’s determined that the animal is friendly, check for an ID tag. If there’s no ID or if the contact information is bad, post a description of the animal along with a photo on Nextdoor. Also, check Nextdoor’s pet directory, where users post photos of their pets alongside their own contact information. Also, post the found pet’s information on all of your personal social media networks along with PetFinder and Craigslist to get the word out to as many people as possible. Take the found animal to your local shelter to get he or she scanned for a microchip. If the pet is chipped and the registry information is valid, the pet will be reunited with their owner in a matter of days.

If Your Pet is Lost

If your pet goes missing during a natural disaster, it’s important that you don’t endanger yourself looking for your pet. Avoid venturing outside or far from home if the conditions outside are unmanageable. Instead, check sites like the ones we mentioned – Nextdoor, Craigslist, PetFinder – to see if anyone has found your pet. Next, call or visit your local shelters in case your pet was dropped off by an emergency crew or Good Samaritan.

Pets are often overlooked or abandoned during natural disasters because they don’t have the proper identification or paperwork. Because natural disasters can happen any time and with little warning, plan for your pet as you would for any member of your household. Doing so could mean the difference between your pet staying with you during an emergency or getting left behind.