June is National Disaster Preparedness Month for Animals

The Humane Society of the United States
Friday, 4 June 2004

Disasters can happen at anytime or any place. Acts of nature such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods, or man-made events such as acts of terrorism or hazardous materials accidents can leave little time to gather the essentials needed for a stay at a temporary shelter. Some of us might not have enough supplies on hand to shelter in place for a few days. When making emergency preparedness plans, it is important not to forget the animals. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) urges animal owners to take measures now to protect the well being of their pets and or livestock when disaster strikes.

"If you have to evacuate, take your animals with you," said Anne Culver, director of disaster services for The HSUS. "People with companion animals or livestock must prepare now to provide for the needs of their animals should a disaster strike. We have designated June as Disaster Preparedness Month so people have time to think about the supplies they would need at the beginning of hurricane season, instead of waiting until they hear a hurricane, tornado or other warning on the news."

Even with a complete disaster plan in place, pets and their owners can sometimes run into trouble, or a disaster may exceed local resources. In such cases, The HSUS Disaster Services Program brings trained HSUS staff and volunteers to areas where help is needed in rescuing, sheltering, and caring for animals in danger. The HSUS has recently responded to wildfires in Arizona, California, and throughout the West, blizzards in the Rockies, flooding in West Virginia and North Carolina, hurricanes throughout the East and Gulf Coasts, and tornadoes in the Midwest.

Disaster situations usually call for one of two shelter options—evacuation or sheltering in place. Tune in to television or a battery-powered radio and listen to local authorities to determine which method to follow. In either case, be sure to have a disaster supply kit packed in a waterproof container for your pets. The container should have at least a three-day supply of food and water, pet medications, veterinary records, leashes or harnesses and a current photo of your pets.

If the need arises to shelter in place, close your windows and doors, stay inside and follow these tips:

  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say there is an imminent problem. Keep pets under your direct control so that if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies there in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Basements or inside rooms are preferred, depending on the type of emergency.
  • Have plenty of plastic bags and newspapers as well as containers and cleaning supplies to help deal with pet waste. Puppy training pads are also useful for this purpose.
  • Listen to the radio and don't come out of your shelter until you know it's safe.

If your local government orders an evacuation, take your animals with you and follow these tips:

  • Learn your official evacuation routes from your local authorities and media.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to evacuate, especially if you have horses or other large animals or if you have several pets.
  • Be ready to take your family, your pets, and your emergency kits with you.
  • Know in advance where you will go.
  • Make sure your pets will be welcome, whether at a motel or a friend or relative's house.

The HSUS is the only animal protection organization that has been recognized by both the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a source of expertise and partner in disaster relief for animals. Through these partnerships, we hope to ensure that the public will have guidance when preparing for and dealing with emergencies.

The HSUS also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to promote disaster preparedness and coordinate emergency response efforts for animals.

For specific information about disaster preparedness for animals, and for more on The HSUS Disaster Services Program, visit www.hsus.org/disaster, e-mail disaster@hsus.org, or write for our disaster preparedness brochures.

For more information, or to contact The Humane Society of the United States, see their website at: www.hsus.org

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