Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 53
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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Disaster Preparedness for Pets

Sep 08, 2009 - 5 comments

Seeing the California wildfires in the news over these past two weeks has really got me thinking about things that I can do to help.  In any disaster, man-made or natural, people and their pets are affected in a number of ways.

Thankfully, the severe storm season of 2005, when Hurricanes Rita and Katrina came ashore, taught us some needed lessons about handling animals during disasters.   A direct result of those storms was a piece of legislation known as the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, or PETS Act.   This bill, which was signed into law in October of 2006, directs states to have contingency plans in place to handle both people AND their pets in the event of a disaster.  Failure to do so could mean a loss of federal monies.

Also, the plight of our pets during catastrophes was highlighted.   Merial, a prominent veterinary pharmaceutical company, began a program to put a spotlight on pets’ needs.   This program is called Paws To Save Pets and their purpose is three-fold.  First, they provide funding for disaster preparedness training.   Next, in the event of a disaster, they are prepared to provide needed monies for medications and shelters.   Finally, this program helps animal shelters and veterinarians rebuild and restock after disaster strikes.   They partner with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the PetFinder.com Foundation to raise the money needed.  In just four years, they have raised more than $3 million!!

But, it’s really up to you, the individual pet owner, to be prepared for any kind of emergency.   You can start by having a “pet disaster and evacuation kit” ready in your home.  Things to include in this kit might be:

1-2 weeks supply of food for all pets
Supply of clean drinking water
1-2 weeks supply of any needed medications
Vaccination records
Pictures of your pet
Leashes (also a muzzle)
List of contact numbers (veterinarians, friends, local shelters)
Trash bags
Letter authorizing treatment of your pets in your absence.

In the event of a mandatory evacuation, don’t leave your pets behind.  You may think that you will only be gone for 1-2 days and your pets will be fine, but a short evacuation could turn into a weeklong affair.  It’s always best to take your friends with you!

All of this talk about the upcoming hurricane season along with the impending wildfire season out West has piqued my “volunteer spirit”.  During Katrina, I was anxious to head south and go help with the animal rescues, but, working in a veterinary hospital 50 hours per week made that difficult.   Now that I work from home, I am excited to see if I can join a Disaster Response team, like American Humane’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services or even one of the AVMA’s Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs).

So, I am proud to announce that I have started with online courses offered by FEMA on how to understand our national emergency plans and Incident Command Systems.  As I complete those courses, I am looking forward to disaster training with the American Humane Association.  

I certainly hope that we, as humans, can learn to avoid many of the disasters that we create (oil spills, explosions, fires), but in the event that someone makes a mistake, I want to be ready to be on the front lines!  

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by dominosarah, Sep 08, 2009
Thank you for the valuable information.  In my area the only real threat is tornadoes and i do have a care package downstairs for my pets but i see i need to add a few things.  I also have my pets medical info in a fire safe safe just in case that would happen.  Again thank you        sara

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by ginger899, Sep 08, 2009
This is wonderful wake up call for everyone who could be threatened by natural disasters. It broke my heart to hear of the plight of pets left behind during Hurricanes etc. I wanted to go out there and help, myself!!

Yes, my attitude is get the heck out a.s.a.p.......and take your fur-friends with you! I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Avatar universal
by PlateletGal, Sep 10, 2009

"It broke my heart to hear of the plight of pets left behind during Hurricanes etc. I wanted to go out there and help, myself!!"

Ditto !!!

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by ginger899, Sep 11, 2009
Yes, but I also heard that during ...(was it Hurricane Katrina??)...that the rescue boats that came in to evacuate people refused to take pets on board! Many people stayed behind (who can blame them?) putting their lives at risk. I was shocked to hear this. SURELY there would have been room enough in one of those boats for doggies on-leash and muzzled, and a couple or so cats??? What were they so afraid of? A little poop or pee? Raw sewage was floating in the water for heavens sake!

You heard correctly Ginger...sadly, the rescuers either didn't know better or had instructions not to bring the animals along.  Many disaster shelters were not equipped to handle people AND their pets and so rescuers and first responders were not allowing people to bring their animals in many cases.   This disaster (Katrina) really changed the way that our disaster response teams and our communities look at handling animals during emergencies.  Thankfully, the PETS Act helps by instructing state emergency teams to make accomodations for people with pets.

The whole world watched with horror as a little boy was not allowed to bring his small white puppy ("Snowball") on board the evacuation bus.  It was this incident (among many) that caused a change in the way of thinking.

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