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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Preparing For Disaster With Your Pets

Last night my family dodged a bullet.  Storm systems tore through the southern US over the last couple of days, spawning possibly a record number of tornadoes and so far causing almost 250 deaths (the count may rise as wrecked homes and buildings are searched).  They hit my area yesterday and killed a dozen people in Georgia alone.  Only a few miles north of my home there were houses that were blown down to their foundations, trees and power lines down, and the county just west of us is probably going to be declared a disaster area due to the damage.  I sincerly thank God that the only damage near us was one branch down in a neighbor's yard and my lawn swing blown over.  My family made it through unscathed, though unfortunately too many families were devistated.

Just a few hours north of us in Tennessee a friend of ours was going through the same storm system.  He prayed hard that his house would be safe, and God provided that safety.  But his two dogs escaped and were missing overnight.  He posted on Facebook that he'd rather be homeless and have his dogs than to have his home and be missing them.  Again, God's blessings were there, and this morning he found that his dogs had been picked up by an animal control agent and were safe.  They are back with him now.

This brings up an imporant point that many people may not think about.  We talk about preparing our own families during crises and disasters, but the pets are often forgotten.  There were countless pets that ended up as strays in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.  Pet owners need to think about their dogs, cats, and other critters when they deal with sudden evacuations or damage such as we've seen in the last few days.  In my own family one of the first things we did was to gather all of the pets, especially the cats, and kept them behind closed doors downstairs until the danger passed.  That way we weren't scrambling to find skittish cats when a tornado was bearing down on us.

The ASPCA has a wonderful Disaster Preparedness page that details how you should keep your pets in mind during these times, and should be ready before a crisis actually occurs.  I strongly encourage everyone to go to the link and read the details.  But here is a quick summary.

*  Arrange a safe haven and don't leave your pets behind to fend for themselves.  Pick a designated caregiveer, boarding facility, family member, veterinarian, etc. ahead of time.
*  Make a traveling kit with emergency supplies such as food, blankets, water, recent photos of your pets, veterinary medical records, spare leashes, and so on.
*  Make sure your pet has a collar or harness with an ID tag.  A microchip is even better (but should not be the only identification) because it won't come off.
*  Bring your pets inside at the first time of a potentially serious situation.

Other details can be found on the ASPCA's site above.  You can find the same basic information on FEMA's website here.  The most important consideration is to plan ahead!  Don't wait until you're minutes away from being hit by a tornado before thinking about these things.

My prayers go out to all of the families affected by these storms.