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Pets and Livestock

Staying At Home

Now that you have made the preparations for the rest of the family, don't forget your pets. If you are staying at home during the emergency, this is fairly simple. As usual, your animals need food, water, and shelter. They need medicine if they take something regularly. And, they must be kept close to the house. Even a dog or cat that is used to being outside may be in danger in a disaster area. They don't know to stay away from downed power lines or sick squirrels.

Food and medicine are fairly easy to provide. Keep an extra bag or box of the animal's food just like you are keeping extra food for the people. Rotate the supplies so you are always using the oldest first and buy more when you open the last package. Make sure you have the animalsí usual foods. During the emergency, your pets will be stressed. This is not the time to be changing their diet and arguing with them about eating. If you pamper your cat with canned salmon, have some on hand for the emergency.† Do not feed animals spoiled food.† Dogs and cats can get food poisoning too.

All cats and dogs should have a collar or harness that fits them properly and has personal identification, rabies and license tags. Have a leash available. You may not use it often, but you will need it in an emergency. You can't let pets outside without a leash. They could get hurt running loose and you could get hurt chasing them. If you are doing clean-up in the yard, you can tie your pets to something solid and let them enjoy the fresh air. If it is necessary to stay indoors most of the time, you can still safely walk the animal on a leash. If you are in the car, you have to have a leash for use during stops. You can't keep the dog in a carrier for a week without letting it out. It is just plain cruel.

In winter storms, remember that a small animal is very susceptible to cold. If they must go outside, go with them and get them back inside quickly. Even outdoor pets should be brought in if it is very cold. Make sure there is plenty of water available for outdoor animals. Water that will not freeze and become undrinkable. Most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration.

Dehydration kills animals
more often than cold

Evacuating Animals

If you are forced out of your home by a disaster, animals become a serious problem. You generally cannot take your pets to a disaster shelter. They do not allow anything but humans in the shelters. There may be exceptions made for service animals such as Seeing Eye Dogs, but they are not going to take in Rover no matter how much your kids love him.

If your disaster plan includes staying with friends or family, make sure your pets are welcome too. Don't find out that your nephew is deathly allergic to cats when everyone is at Grandma's house to weather a category 4 hurricane. If someone gets put out in the storm, it is going to be the cat not the child.

If you may have to take your family to a shelter, find out ahead of time what options are available for your pets. Contact the local animal shelters or your veterinarian and find out if anyone in your area has made provisions for pets during disasters. If not, and this issue is important to you, see if you can help get something organized.

Have a carrier and supplies ready. You may be able to find a place for your cat or dog, if it is in a carrier. Some agencies are recommending that you take your pets with you in your car and leave them in the car while you are in the shelter. This assumes you can go out and care for them regularly. If it is summer, you must keep the animal in a carrier and the car windows down. If the windows are up, your pet will quickly die of heat stroke. In winter cold, an animal in a car will freeze to death, so a car is not a practical shelter in a winter storm.

If you have valuable livestock that you plan to evacuate in a disaster, you really must plan ahead. Know how you are going to transport the animals and where you are going to take them. Don't count on your neighbors to help you with animal evacuations. If your barn has burned, then others around you may offer assistance. If there is a disaster, everyone is trying to provide for their own family and animals and they are unlikely to be able to help you.

As with house pets, large animals need a supply of food, medicines, and individual care items. You need water buckets and non-nylon leads and halters. You need vaccination certificates, medical records and proof of ownership such as registration papers.

Leaving Pets Behind

Leaving pets at home is a last resort. If you must leave an animal behind, do your best to provide food, water and shelter for as long as you are likely to be gone. Think about how the animals normally live and do your best to provide for them in a way that they will understand and be able to use.

Small caged animals like mice and gerbils should be left in the cage. You don't let them run free in the house, so don't set them free before you leave. You will not be likely to catch them again and they won't survive for long. Put a large amount of food and water in the cage and put the cage in a safe place. Make sure the water bowl is not going to tip over and that the sides are not so high that the animal will drown if it falls in. You can cut a hole in a box of food and leave this in the cage as a serving bowl.

Provide for birds the same way. Put lots of food and water in the cage where they can get at it easily. If the birds normally stay in their cage, then leave the door closed. If the birds are allowed to fly around the house and know how to find their way back to their cage, you may leave the cage door open. Wire the door open so it cannot accidentally close and cut the bird off from its food and water.

†Cats and small dogs can be left in the house if the house is not likely to flood. Put food and water out where they can get it. A large bag of dried food can be placed on the floor and split open from top to bottom so the animal can get to all the food over time. Put out several pans of water and leave the toilet seats up as an added source of water. Do not confine the animals more than is necessary. You may not want them to mess up the house, but they need every chance to survive.

Never leave an animal tied up

Large dogs and outdoor animals should be given as much freedom as possible. Never tie up an animal and then leave. Many animals have starved, drowned or died of exposure just a few feet from safety because they could not escape the rope that had them tied. Make sure that they have shelter, food and water available and then leave them loose. They may not survive, but at least they have a fighting chance.

If you are leaving livestock behind, provide them with food, water and shelter in a restricted area. If they are threatened by fire, it is important that they have a cleared area with hay in the center where it is less of a hazard. If they are threatened by summer or winter storms, make sure they have shelter and are protected from flying debris.

Animal Rescue

Rescue workers look for animals, as well as people, when searching disaster areas. Shelters will be set up and animals will be cared for if possible. When you must leave animals behind, put up a sign on a door or window that is easily visible. Include the type and number of animals inside or nearby. Leave the door unlocked so rescuers can get to the animals.

All pets or livestock should have collars or halters with identification. Leave leashes or leads where they can be found easily. Someone else may be able to evacuate your animal before you can get back to your home, and you want this to be easy and safe for the animal. If there is adequate identification on them, you will have a better chance of finding and reclaiming your animals later.

Put out a sign
if you leave animals behind

Coming home

When you come home after a disaster, make sure an adult goes in the house first, especially if there were animals left behind. Losing a pet is hard on anyone, but children are particularly sensitive when they are under stress. Be careful when approaching a feeding station you have left for outdoor animals. Lots of animals may have found their way to your dog food. Depending on where you live, there may be everything from squirrels to cougars in your garage and all types of animals can be dangerous.

Do not approach a wild animal or one that is strange to you. Give them a safe way to retreat and let them go by themselves. If an animal is injured, get an animal control officer or animal rescue worker to help you. If you donít know what you are doing, you may make things worse for the animal and put yourself at risk.

Dead animals can also be a health risk and they begin to smell very quickly. If you need to dispose of a dead animal, †do not handle it directly. Pick it up with a shovel or other long tool. If you can bury the animal in a hole at least two feet deep, this is best. If you cannot bury it, seal the body in a plastic bag. Place this bag in a second bag, seal the second bag and dispose of it away from people and water.