Hurricane Isaac is devastating Gulf Coast communities just seven years after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes, and as first responders work to rescue people stranded by the storm, groups, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), is planning rescue operations for stranded and imperiled animals.
If you aren’t in the middle of the hurricane, now is the time to prepare for the next emergency. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month and the ASPCA urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan in advance to keep their families and pets safe. Studies show that one-third of cat and dog owners don’t have a disaster preparedness plan in place.
Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, said, “It doesn’t matter where you live; anyone can be hit with a natural or man-made disaster. When you’re in the moment, it can be very stressful for you and your pets. We learned from Hurricane Katrina that people must be allowed to evacuate with their pets, and New York City took heed and made sure that all the human shelters were pet-friendly. Having a plan in place ahead of time can save you precious time and energy so you can focus on quickly getting you and your pets to safety.” For pet owners who do have an emergency plan in place, the ASPCA’s national study found that an overwhelming majority (85 percent of dog owners; 81 percent of cat owners) intend to bring their pets with them in the event of an evacuation. Rickey agreed: “If officials order an evacuation, you should take your pets with you. If it’s not safe for you, then it’s not safe for your pets.”
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 you 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. In some hotels, if there is a no-pet policy, it may be waived in the event of an emergency. For a listing, go to www.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 the event of an emergency.
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.
Make sure you know 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 five to seven days.
• Current identification (name, cell phone, address) fastened to your pet’s collar.
• Pet carrier, blanket, leash, and harness.
• Disposable litter box and litter if you have cats or rabbits.
• Animal first aid kit–available for all different species at www.petfirstaid.org
• 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 (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 www.petswelcome.com
• You should also have an emergency rescue sticker placed on the front door of your home in the event that you’re separated from your pet. You can get one for free on the ASPCA’s website.
Hurricane Isaac once again reminds us that you can never be too prepared for a disaster. The ASPCA was founded in 1866 and was the first humane organization established in the Americas. This year alone, the ASPCA has assisted more than 18,500 animals in communities throughout the Midwest and South that were severely affected by tornadoes, flooding, and storms, and estimates that more than 600,000 cats and dogs have been affected by natural disasters nationwide. For information on disaster preparedness and safety tips from the ASPCA, visit aspca.org.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Our little Gabe is a shelter favorite. He’s shy, sweet, and loving. He’s a quiet boy and would be perfect in an adult home. He’s pretty much a lap dog, but loves his time basking in the sun! He will be your perfect loyal companion through good times and bad. He likes some dogs, but not all. You could say he’s rather picky about whom he hangs out with. Gabe is learning all good home behaviors while he is in foster care. Complete a no-obligation adoption application, fax it in to the shelter (805) 681-5283 to get it approved, and we’ll set a time to meet Gabe. You could be who he has been waiting for.
If Gabe sounds like the perfect dog for you, stop by the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road, Goleta, and complete a no-obligation adoption application.
Do you love dogs but can’t have a pet? To donate or volunteer with K-9 PALS, the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that pays for all the non-routine medical expenses and prescription foods for the S.B. County shelter dogs, call (805) 570-0415 or link to www.K-9PALS.org