June is National Pet Preparedness Month. What would you do if a natural or man-made disaster struck where you live? Where you vacation? We can all agree that our pets are more than just loving and dependable companions who share our homes with us…they’re part of the family. As such, it is just as important to remember them when it comes time to plan and pack for an emergency as it is yourself. The past few years, we watched in horror as devastating hurricanes, historic floods, uncontrollable wildfires, and fierce blizzards wrecked havoc on our country from coast to coast, leaving millions of people and animals without even the basic necessities, and shone a bright spotlight on the importance of emergency preparedness measures, including basic survival gear, food, and medical supplies. According to The Atlantic, more than 600,000 animals were killed or stranded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina alone, and that was over a decade ago – last year’s Hurricanes Harvey and Irma produced more than a million animals stranded and in need of help. In an emergency, your pets will be even more dependent on you for their safety and well-being, and a few tips and tricks from sources like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and the American Red Cross can make that responsibility a little easier.
Different regions within the United States carry different risks of natural disasters. For example, living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago might not pose much risk for hurricanes or wildfires, however we are prone to devastating and ferocious tornadoes, like the one that wiped out Washington, IL in 2013. The Midwest is the nation’s tornado hot-spot, especially the corridor known as Tornado Alley, which Illinois unfortunately falls into. Since 1950, Illinois has produced more than 2,600 tornadoes, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and lost property. Please, pay attention to natural disaster advisories and bulletins and turn on notifications for weather and emergency alerts on your cellphone – it’s 2018 people, simply downloading the WGN News or Weatherbug apps are enough to stay informed about approaching weather to our area.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got an emergency bag packed for yourself and your family, but what about your pets? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) loves to use this time of year to highlight seasonal natural disaster preparedness, and wants to make sure that, in addition to packing the usual human emergency essentials, that you a kit for your furry friend as well. Ideally, your “go-bag”, or pet first aid and emergency kit, should have enough supplies to last for a two week “vacation”. This bag can serve as your pet’s essential supplies should you have to relocate to a shelter or another location during an emergency. Supplies that are highly recommended to keep stocked in your kit can include, but are not limited to:
- Pet medical thermometer
- Assorted bandages, gauze rolls and pads
- Garbage & stool bags
- Pet Carrier
- Muzzle (even if you think your pet doesn’t need one)
- Towels and blankets
- Pet food
- Bottled water
- Collapsible pet bowls
- Leash/harness (even for cats!)
- Medical, microchip, and adoption records in a Ziploc
- Numbers for local shelters, vets
- Current photo of your pet
(It’s important to store your food and pet first aid kid in an airtight, waterproof container in a safe place – make sure you have enough food and water for five days per pet! Remember to write the expiration dates clearly and check back every few months to update or swap out your stock. If you have a tornado shelter or basement, keep you bin there; if you live in a flood-prone area, store it in a high place.)
According to Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, extra survival gear that could come in handy are dog booties, a life vest, a cooling vest (for warmer climates), rain jacket or poncho, and winter jacket or sweater. Pack a few toys and treats to distract your pet as well; natural disasters are stressful for animals and humans alike. If your pup has a history of anxiety, consider bringing something like a ThunderShirt, which can help calm nervous pets. If your pet has anxiety managed by a veterinarian, make sure you have a supply of his or her medications in stock and not expired. This might all seem excessive, but you know what they say; better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Being prepared no matter what comes your way sounds like a great idea, however sometimes the emergencies happen so fast that we don’t really have time to prepare or react quick enough. Fires and flash floods often force people to evacuate their home in a matter of minutes, sometimes leaving behind pets who are scared and hiding. Thankfully, heroes like our National Guard, firefighters, and law enforcement officers are the first ones to jump in and assist us as best they can, but while they may be heroes, they’re not mind-readers. A vinyl “animal emergency” sticker, like the ones given out for free by the ASPCA seen above and ordered here, placed on the windows nearest your front door can alert first responders that animals live in the residence and are in need of rescue.
A few last minute tips:
- If it’s not safe for you to stay in your home during an emergency, it’s not safe for them either!
- Include supplies for your pet in your emergency kit, or assemble an emergency kit for your pet.
- Make an evacuation plan for you and your pets. Many hotels and shelters do not accept animal guests, other than service animals.
If you need a copy of your pet’s vaccination records for your disaster or emergency kits, you can contact one of our receptionists at (847) 634-9250 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org