We are firmly in the middle of what is known colloquially in the United States as “disaster season.” For the people of Florida, this means bracing for hurricanes that batter the coastline and upend life for many who live within the paths of their destruction. An eye-opening 120 hurricanes have hit the Sunshine State since records started being kept in 1851. That’s roughly 40% of all hurricanes in the U.S. We’re taught to plan in advance for us and our pets’ safety in the wake of these types of natural disasters, as they spark visceral reactions and tangible, jaw-dropping devastation.
Despite this chilling but significant reality, there are certain general steps you can take so that you’re one step ahead when a crisis hits home. Make sure you have a disaster plan for you, your family and, yes, your pet. This should include microchipping your pet in the event that you are separated, along with ensuring your pet wears a collar and ID tags that include up-to-date identification and contact information. Your pet’s tag should detail his or her name, your telephone number and any critical health information that might be important for someone to know should they come across your pet.
Being prepared also means being organized. Choose a safe place to evacuate if you need to leave your home with your pet. Always keep your pet’s carrier in an easily accessible place so you’re able to act swiftly when an unknown disaster presents itself. If leaving with your pet in tow isn’t an option, contact your veterinarian for a list of recommended boarding facilities or reach out to your local shelter to ask if they provide emergency shelter for pets.
It’s imperative to remember that you should never, under any circumstances, leave your pet behind when disaster strikes. Bringing your pet not only increases their chance of survival, but critically, will also prevent endangering the lives of first responders who may enter a dangerous situation to save your pet.
Having the critical supplies and items that your pet will need in case of emergency is vital, particularly if you’re forced to evacuate from your home unexpectedly. Some of the essentials you’ll need when building a pet disaster kit include leashes, seven to 10 days’ worth of food and water, medication and medical records, first-aid supplies and any of your pet’s favorite toys that may reduce stress and encourage calm behavior. You may think it’s a good idea to tranquilize your pet in order to keep them calm. Do not do this, as they’ll need their survival instincts should a disaster situation arise.
If you are caught in a disaster scenario where you and your pet become separated, please know that the American Humane Rescue Team will be first on the frontlines to help animals in the area reach safety. Our dedicated team fights day-in and day-out to protect the lives of our furry friends in harm’s way. But we also want to help you prepare for any type of disaster so that you can use this knowledge to keep your pets safe.
A disaster, or a disastrous moment, can strike at any time. And it’s important to remember that it may not come in the form of a furious inferno or a punishing hurricane featuring newscasters broadcasting in near-perilous conditions.
An abnormally hot day with your pet stuck outside while you’re at work is a disaster for the four-legged friend who relies on you to make sure there’s enough shade and water to get by while you’re gone. A viral disease that spreads can silently cause catastrophic consequences for millions of animals and people alike without the type of devastating footage you see on the news for other natural disasters. Waning economic conditions for millions of Americans can also spark myriad problems for both humans and the pets we so lovingly take care of in our homes.
We know the world is changing around us, and sometimes these changes can impact our society in heartbreaking ways. What this current and potential human and economic destruction means in the long-term is not yet clear. What we do know, however, is that we need to build a new world — one grounded in humane values that can easily be demonstrated through science, ethics and compassion. But we must also be prepared for the world in which we live today — a world plagued with illness, the effects of climate change and economic uncertainty.
So please take a moment and ask yourself if you have a plan in place for you and your pet. It may be the one thing you can count on when things around you go awry, and will at least help ensure that you’ll have a furry snuggle to comfort you in the aftermath.
Robin Ganzert is the president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first humane organization, which saves, shelters and protects more than one billion animals worldwide each year.
Read the full Sun Sentinel piece here.