With the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and upcoming worries about Hurricane Irma in the news this week, it’s a good time to revisit disaster preparedness for families with pets. After Hurricane Katrina, government disaster planning began to include provisions for pets in some emergency shelters. However, pet owners still need to consider themselves responsible for the evacuation and care of their own animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has developed resources to help both pet owners and government officials in planning for natural disasters. I encourage all readers to visit www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/Pets-and-Disasters.aspx. The website includes a preparedness video, links to other helpful resources, and a free download of the AVMA’s “Saving the Whole Family” booklet.

As an example of the useful information provided, the AVMA recommends the following items be assembled as a small animal evacuation kit:

  • 2-week supply of food (dry & canned)
  • 2-week supply of water in plastic gallon jugs
  • Batteries (flashlight, radio)
  • Cage/carrier (for each animal, labeled with your contact information)
  • Can opener (manual)
  • Cat/wildlife gloves
  • Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership
  • Emergency contact list
  • Familiar items to make pets feel comfortable (favorite toys, treats, blankets)
  • First aid kit (see next page)
  • Flashlight
  • Instructions for diet and medications, including amount, frequency, and how to get refills
  • Leash, collar, harness (for each animal)
  • Litter, litter pan, litter scoop
  • Maps of local area and alternate evacuation routes (in case of road closures)
  • Muzzles (dog or cat)
  • Newspaper (bedding, litter)
  • No-spill food and water dishes
  • Paper towels
  • Radio (solar and battery operated)
  • Spoon (for canned food)
  • Stakes and tie-outs
  • Trash bags

The “Saving the Whole Family” guide also include suggestions for horses and livestock, supply lists for animal first aid kits, transportation tips for evacuating exotic pet species, and a wealth of additional information designed for the general public.

The AVMA also has a “Disaster Preparedness and Response Guide” that is geared more toward emergency planners.  It includes model emergency plans and detailed fact sheets for earthquakes, floods, thunderstorms, fires, tornadoes, winter storms, extreme heat, volcano, tsunami, hurricane, and hazardous materials accidents.  There is also basic information on animal handling and disease control that should be part of the training for emergency response personnel.

If a disaster ever does strike our area, the Virginia State Animal Response Team (VASART) has been planning to assist. According to their web site, VASART “was created through a private-public partnership to serve as a unifying network of organizations, businesses, federal and state government agencies, and individuals that supports the prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery for emergencies affecting animals.” They have useful planning and preparedness information for horse and pet owners on their web site, virginiasart.org. You can print an emergency contact card for pets and livestock as well as a checklist label for “pet emergency go-bags.”

VASART also solicits donations and volunteers to help their efforts to prepare for and respond to disasters. If you have animal-related skills that could be helpful in times of need, please consider filling out one of the volunteer applications on virginiasart.org. If you have financial resources to help the effort, there is also a donation form available.

Thank you to the readers of this column who contributed to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) last week. The AVMF continues to help veterinarians provide shelter and medical care to pets affected by Hurricane Harvey. They will be there if Irma creates a need – or anytime there is a disaster that affects animals. You can still make a donation to AVMF by visiting www.AVMF.org and indicating “disaster relief.”