“Pet owners need to ensure their animals are up to date with their vaccines, including rabies and virus vaccines for cats and dogs. Also, cats must be vaccinated for feline leukemia, while dogs should have their heartworm and flu vaccines, as well,” said veterinarian Elizabeth Rivera, who works at the Veterinary Technology Division of the University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Science’s Campus. “This will protect other animals and reduces your pet’s risk of getting sick. On the other hand, shelters may require proof of your pet’s immunization. Therefore, pet owners are advised to carry vaccine records certified by a veterinarian,” she added.
Before the Disaster: Have a Safe Place to Take Your Pets
Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! If you plan to shelter your pet - work it into your evacuation route planning.
• It may be difficult 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. Many communities are developing pet-friendly shelter plans, check to see if your local emergency shelter plan includes pets.
• Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are all potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
• Contact hotels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
• Prepare a list of facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
• Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have, as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
• If you have no option but to leave your pet in the house while you are gone, make sure it is in a safe place. Also, leave a sign that specifies how many pets are in the house and what type of pets they are.
Prepare a portable disaster supply kit for your pet
Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily.
• Proper identification, including immunization records, and current photos.
• Ample supply of food and water
• A carrier or cage, pet beds and toys
• Medications, medical records and a first aid kit
• Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.
• Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
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 your pet.
• Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
• Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice.
• Bring all pets into the house so that you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
• 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 supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting 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 securely leashed. 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. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.
It’s never too early to create a disaster plan for you and your entire family. Information on this and other advice on disaster preparedness for animals is available on FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov