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Pets And Livestock

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Pets and Livestock

They were among the most haunting images of Hurricane Katrina - pets abandoned in flooded New Orleans by owners who were told by rescuers that they could not leave with their animals. Many residents died because they insisted on staying with their pets rather than leaving them to starve or drown.

American studies on disaster evacuation have shown that typically 40% only of households had preparations in place to evacuate their pets with the rest of the family and of the remaining 60%; two thirds of pet owners subsequently put their own lives at risk by returning to the evacuation zone to rescue their pets.

Pets have a positive role to play in flood evacuation. Flooding is an enormously stressful event and pets evacuated with family members have a stress relieving effect and it avoids any additional worry over abandoned animals.

Pet carriers

The most common reason for non-evacuation of pets is a lack of suitable carriers particularly for cats. In households with multiple pets it is common to have a single carrier for veterinary visits but in an evacuation a carrier is required for each pet. Ensure that you have enough carriers constructed of wire mesh or plastic. Obviously cardboard carriers will disintegrate in a flood.

The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives. In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.

Have a Safe Place to Take Your Pets

Some emergency shelters cannot accept pets. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.

Evacuation Tips for Pets

  • Take your pets with you. Many people mistakenly leave their companions animals behind when they evacuate during an emergency, thinking their pet's instincts will prevent them being harmed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Companion animals depend on us for their survival, much as children do.
  • Identify your pet. Securely fasten a current identification tag to your pet's collar. If you face evacuation, it is a good idea to attach to the collar the phone number of a friend or family member who is well be able to reach a person who knows how to contact you.
  • Photograph your pet. Carry a photo of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Transport your pet safely. Use secure pet carriers and keep your pet on a lead or in a harness.
  • Foster your pet. If you and your pet cannot stay together, call friends, family members, veterinarians, or boarding kennels in a safer area to arrange safe foster care.
  • Have supplies on hand. Be sure to have a 72 hours kit for your animals (see 72 hours kit for animals), week's worth of food, water, medication, cat letter, or any other supplies your pet needs on a regular basis.
  • Plan your evacuation and leave in plenty of time. Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. When rescue officials come to your door, they may not allow you to take your pets with you.
  • Carry a list of emergency telephone numbers with you. This should include your vet and any other individuals or groups you might need to contact during the disaster.

Evacuation Tips for Farm Animals

  • Evacuate animals as soon as possible.
  • Be ready to leave once the evacuation is ordered.
  • Arrange your evacuation route in advance.
  • Arrange for a place to house you animals.
  • Plan an alternate evacuation route.
  • Alternate routes should be mapped out in case the planned route becomes inaccessible.
  • Set up safe transportation. Make sure that you have available trucks, trailers, or other vehicles suitable for transporting farm animals.
  • Arrange to have experienced animal handlers and drivers to transport them.
  • Take your supplies with you.
  • At evacuation site, you should have, or be able to readily obtain, food, water, veterinary care, handling equipment, and generators if necessary.

In the event of a flood evacuation, farm livestock may be destroyed by the authorities without consulting the owner if it is felt they might suffer.

Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supply Kit

Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you'll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in a sturdy container that can be carried easily including:

  • Medication and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
  • Sturdy leads, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.
  • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
  • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
  • Information on feeding schedule, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your vet in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easy transportable.

Know What to Do As a Disaster Approaches

Often warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect yourself and your pets.

  • Call ahead to confirm accommodation arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice.
  • Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification.
  • Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area.
  • You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen.
  • You may not be home when the evacuation order comes.
  • Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location.
  • This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supply kit is kept, and have a key to your home.
  • If you use a pet setting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs secure. Transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines.

Caring for Birds in an Emergency

Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds' feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.

Caring for Reptiles

Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snakes require frequent feeding, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards follow the same directions as for birds.

Small Mammals

Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.

Useful Links

Pet Friendly Hotels and Self-catering Accommodation

Animal Care Associations


Scottish SPCA

Blue Cross

Animal Care Charities

Cats Protection League

The Dogs Trust

International League for the Protection of Horses