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7 tips to ensure your pets' safety during a disaster


You've secured your house. You've got your go-bag ready if you have to evacuate. You've taken all the other steps to get ready for an impending natural disaster.

Or have you?

Don't forget about your pets.

During recent floods in the Midwest, Reuters reported that hundreds of pets were lost or imperiled by floodwaters. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, an estimated 15,000 animals had to be rescued, according to CNN.

"It's a tragedy we've seen too many times: pets stuck in shelters, or worse, because their owners had no place to take them, or homeowners who feel trapped in a dangerous home because they don't know where to take their pets," said Eric Cioppa, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) President and Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance. "We want folks to remember that there are places you can take your pet, and that it's important to plan ahead and be ready for the worst."

So make sure that your storm preparations take into account the needs of your furry family members.

Here are some things you need to ensure your pet comes through any disaster as safely as your human family.

1. Take a couple of photographs of your pet.
One snapshot should be of your animal alone, with another of your pet and you and/or other family members family to verify ownership.

The pictures may be needed for lost posters or to fulfill admission requirements at a shelter.

Keep a hard copy, laminated image on you. Also post a copy to your social media accounts so that if your phone containing the photo is lost or damaged, you can access the picture electronically.

2. Create an emergency kit for your pet.
Include food, necessary medications, vet records and an identification tag. Don't forget the leash or harness.

And definitely don't forget poop bags and hand sanitizer.

3. Have bottled water on hand.
Flood waters aren't safe to drink, even for animals. Store a gallon of fresh water for each pet. Have smaller bottles that are easier to carry ready, too.

4. Pack your pet's belongings.
Moving to a temporary space is stressful for everyone. Pets are no exception.

Pack your pet's favorite toys and comfort items, like a blanket or cushion. Of course, this stuff goes into the go-bag at the last minute so that until that point your pet stays as calm as possible.

5. Get a safe carrier.
When you're ready to go, make sure Fido or Fluffy has convenient transport. Have a carry-crate ready to go. A collapsible one is good if you end up in a crowded shelter or bunking with family or friends who don't have a lot of extra space.

6. Invest in a soft muzzle.
If your dog is injured, needs treatment, is afraid and defensive or is normally unpredictable or aggressive towards humans this is imperative,

A soft muzzle can prevent injury to rescuers when carrying or passing your dog. It also keeps your dog from causing problems with other evacuees, animal and humans, at a shelter site.

7. Know where to evacuate.
Many shelters won't accept pets. Find the closest one that will take you and your pets.

Also keep a list of pet-friendly hotels or other facilities that provide pet boarding, and make sure you can meet any requirements, such as providing vet records.

Be a good neighbor: If you have elderly neighbors who have pet companions, take a moment to check on them. 

Find out when family members are coming to help them and their animals prepare for the storm. If they haven't made arrangements yet, offer to help them contact those who will ensure their safety in the storm.

Pets home alone: If you are forced — let me emphasize this: FORCED — to leave your dog or cat in the house, do not confine them to one room.

Allow them access to upstairs. This is critical in flood-prone areas, where animals will need to get to a higher part of the house.

Place a laminated or water-proofed sign on the door and upstairs windows for rescuers with pet details that need to be rescued.

Don't leave pets outside: If you're reading this, you care about your pets and don't need this final admonition.

But I've seen this happen, so I've got to say it.

Never, ever for whatever reason turn your animals outdoors to fend for themselves in a storm. Worse, never ever tie them up outside.

Unattended and exposed animals won't make it through a storm.

If you see such a situation as you're heading out to a safer place to wait out the storm, contact your local animal control office.

Help animal caregivers: Once the storm has cleared and you and your full family, furry and otherwise, are home safe, consider helping out others.

Shelters are always in need of volunteer and financial support. That increases in storms when they are overloaded with animals that were abandoned or ran off because they were frightened.

Remember, if you donate money to your local shelter or national animal care organizations, you might be able to get a tax deduction (you knew a tax angle was coming!) for your gift.

Even if you don't qualify for or need the tax break, helping pets and those who work for their welfare will definitely make you feel good.

I hope you and your pets never have to deal with a natural disaster. But it never hurts to be prepared. I hope these tips help.

Mostly, I hope you all come through any disaster situation safely.

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Those are some actually good tips.

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