South Australia certainly gets its fair share of natural disasters and the rule of thumb when it comes to safety is that if it’s not safe for you then it’s not safe for your pets. There are a number of events that will require you to prepare for an emergency and they can range from heat waves, blackouts and bush fires, to storms and floods.
Although the consequences can be similar, knowing the risks and being prepared are important steps in helping your pets to survive and cope in emergencies. As they can come with little or no warning the best time to start getting ready is now, and thinking about what you’ll need in various scenarios will help your preparedness when facing them.
If it is safe for you to remain at home when disaster strikes, choose a place in your home where you and your pets can stay together. Bring your pets indoors as soon as you become aware that trouble is approaching and keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers. Block exit routes and places where frightened animals may try to hide, and ensure that hazards such as toxic substances have been removed.
Ensure that you have supplies of food and water and any medication they require. All containers should be watertight. The best way to keep your pets safe during an emergency is to keep them with you however this is not always possible.
If you need to leave your home, take your pet. Prior planning will help you to make suitable arrangements for your pet if they can’t go with you. It’s important to find a safe place for them to stay ahead of time as you cannot assume that you will be able to take them with you to your destination, particularly if it is an emergency shelter.
In the case of evacuation check with your emergency service coordinator before you are evacuated to see whether your pets can come, and do it early. Leaving it until you are ordered to evacuate may mean that you are also ordered to leave your pets behind which could be catastrophic for them. Getting pets onto leashes and into carriers during emergency conditions can be more difficult, therefore taking action early is preferable.
Check with your potential destinations, for example, hotels, family, and friends, to find out whether you can bring your pets, and maintain a current list of pet-friendly destinations. Hotels may make exceptions during emergencies but check in advance and ask whether there are restrictions on species and numbers.
Your list should also include options of places for your pets to go by themselves such as kennels, vets, and animal shelters. Keep their emergency contact numbers with you and call as soon as you can to book space. They will have limited capacity during emergencies so ensure that you have alternatives. Remember that if you have more than one pet you may need to make multiple arrangements.
Making sure that your pets are identifiable is the best way to ensure that you are reunited in case you become separated. Microchipping is a good way to link you to your pet, however the value of microchipping lies in the currency of the information that’s linked to the microchip. To learn more refer to our article on microchipping.
Remember that only certain people such as vets and shelters have access to microchip readers, therefore collars and tags are also advisable. Make sure your mobile number is on the tag as well as a friend’s or relative’s.
Your plan should also include your pets in case you’re not at home when the disaster strikes. Arrangements should be made well in advance and include assistance from someone your pets know and with whom they’re comfortable. Consider who would be reliable and willing, and as well as neighbours this might include family, friends and pet-sitters. These people will need access to your home and clear plan of where to take your pets.
Having a checklist and keeping it up to date will help you to save time and be prepared in an emergency. The list should include:
- Enough water and food for a week. Include bowls, and a can opener if necessary.
- Medicine, a first aid kit, and medical records. Keep copies of current vaccination certificates and attach one to the top of carriers – boarding facilities may require this regardless of the circumstances.
- Collars and identification tags.
- Photos of your pets – full body shots as well as clear photos of faces.
- Leads, pet carriers, litter trays, litter, scoops, and “doggie bags”. There should be enough carriers for all animals requiring them so that they can all be moved at once, and they should be large enough for them to comfortably stand and turn around.
- Bedding, blankets and towels.
- Instructions about medication, food and anything that might be relevant for a carer or kennel, including details of their vet.
Finally, don’t forget animals such as horses and farm animals. A number of special considerations need to be made for these animals such as whether they’re safer being confined or whether this puts at risk their ability to protect themselves. Factsheets ad other useful information can be found on the websites of organisations such as South Australian Country Fire Service, The Government of South Australia, and Primary Industries and Regions SA.
Planning and preparation can help to relieve the trauma of natural disasters for you and your pet. It’s never too early to start, and bushfire season is just around the corner.