After Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush signed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (aka the PETS Act) into law. The PETS Act ensures that state emergency preparedness plans take individuals with companion and service animals into consideration, and it was passed by Congress in direct response to the study on federal lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The PETS Act is a step in the right direction for keeping families together and safe during a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake or flood, but if your family is also prepared in advance for emergencies you will fare much better still.
Evacuation advice and a pet emergency plan
What's the number one strategy to keep pets safe if you are in the path of a hurricane? Evacuate early. This includes evacuating family pets as well.
It is best to arrange a plan ahead of time. Make sure you have a good evacuation plan in place as a backup in case you don't have access to a human/animal shelter. Do your research in advance to confirm logistical details. Confirm that your hotel is pet-friendly. Or if you're staying with relatives, ensure upfront that they are able to accommodate your whole family, including dogs, cats and/or other pets.
Pet natural disaster preparedness kit and other tips
You should also make plans to care for your pets during a natural disaster and its aftermath. Have pet preparedness kits ready for all animals in your family. Don't forget your cats and smaller pets. Your whole family should know where the kits are and how to use them.
Here's a basic checklist, but note each pet preparedness bag should be individualized for your pets and the location where you live:
- Two- to four-week supply of pet food
- Water and food bowls
- Kennel or crate
- Copy of medical records, including vaccination records
- Extra medication for your animal (don't forget to rotate the medication so it doesn’t expire)
- Reflective or brightly collared leash and collar with identification
- First-aid kit (consult your veterinarian)
- Litter pans and wee-wee pads
- Ziploc bags and trash bags (roll them up and secure with a rubber band for storing)
- Paper towels and washcloths
- Bottled water (rotate periodically)
- One or two emergency blankets (can be purchased at a camping store)
- Regular blanket (chose size to accommodate your pet)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Pillowcases or eVAC Dry Sack
- Duct tape
- Permanent marker
- Baby wipes
- Tarp or waterproof poncho
- Fun things for your pet, like toys and treats
You should also have current photos of your pets in case any of your animals become lost in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Dogs and cats should be current on their vaccinations, have properly secured identification tags and be microchipped.
You can help rescue teams do their jobs more efficiently by having a rescue alert sticker with the number and type of animals in your home secured to your front door. If you evacuate with your pets, write that on the sticker so emergency rescuers know everyone is safe.
Evolution of emergency preparation to include animals
Disaster preparedness has come a long way in the last decade. We now live in a society that recognizes the need to include family pets in disaster preparedness. Emergency sheltering for disaster situations now has to have an animal component. Typically, this means there will be an emergency animal shelter set up in conjunction with human shelters.