Although the full toll of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan last week is still unknown, this disaster should be a wake-up call to all of us. As Californians, we need to make sure we are prepared in the event our own disaster strikes. California is constantly at risk of natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, and even landslides. The secret for your pet’s survival during one of these natural disasters is to be as prepared as possible before disaster strikes. This means having a plan and assembling an emergency kit for your pet now, before you need it. By being organized and ready for a disaster, you will greatly increase your and your pet’s chance of survival.
Find a secure location ahead of time.
Evacuation shelters rarely accept pets, so you need to plan ahead to make sure your family and pets will have a safe place to take refuge before a disaster strikes. If there is a no-pet policy, you can always ask if this can be waived in the event of an emergency. For a listing, go to petswelcome.com. You should also compile a list of boarding facilities (including veterinary offices and animal shelters) that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies.
Bring your pet with you when you evacuate,
The most important decision you make during a disaster is to take your pet with you. Animals left to fend for themselves can easily be injured, lost, or killed due to exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.
In addition to natural disasters, you should be prepared for everyday emergencies.
Who will check on your cat or dog, feed them, and give any medications necessary if you find yourself unexpectedly away due to an accident or other family emergency? Find a dependable neighbor and make sure they have access to your house. You’ll want to introduce your neighbor to your pet beforehand to ensure familiarity. Have an emergency kit packed and ready to go with your pet in an easily accessible location at all times. If evacuation is necessary while you’re away, be certain your neighbor is willing to rescue your pet and knows where you keep your pet’s emergency kit. Arrange to meet at a location set ahead of time.
Checklist for Pet Emergency Supplies
* Bottled water, food and any medications needed for 5-7 days
* Current identification (name, cell phone, address) fastened to your pet’s collar
* Pet carrier, leash, and harness
* Disposable litter box, litter, and scooper if you have cats or rabbits
* Animal first aid kit — available for all different species at petfirstaid.org
* Toys and blankets
* Photos of your pet in the event they get separated from you
* A copy of your pet’s veterinary records, along with your veterinarian’s phone number
* Phone number and directions to a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital (the 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital in Santa Barbara is Care Hospital at 301 E. Haley Street,  899-2273).
* A list of places to take refuge with your pet. For a listing of pet friendly hotels, go to petswelcome.com
* You should also have an emergency rescue sticker placed on the front door of your home. You can find them online for under $2. amazon.com/Pet-Safety-Alert-Window-Decal/dp/B00079YTTC
Although the main focus of the efforts in Japan are on the human lives, there are a few organizations that are helping in the efforts to rescue animals. As tens of thousands of people evacuate, many animals have fled or are missing and, to make matters worse, many shelters for disaster victims will not accept pets.
Here’s how you can help.
You can support the Search Dog Foundation, which is sending six rescue Canine Disaster Search Teams to Japan to help locate people who have been trapped in falling buildings. The foundation is deploying 72 people and 75 tons of rescue equipment to assist with the effort. For more information, visit searchdogfoundation.org
A disaster assessment and response team from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is heading to Japan with a goal of helping the pets that cannot join their human families in disaster shelters. The WSPA also says, “Several animal welfare groups in Japan have come together to launch a coordinated effort to help the animals affected by last week’s quake and resultant tsunami.” The WSPA is accepting donations through its Animal Disaster Fund. For more information, visit animalsindisasters.typepad.com
You can also donate to the American Humane Association, which is providing disaster relief to Japan’s animals. For more information, visit americanhumane.org/