Monday, February 6, 2012

Evacuating Pets Disaster Preparedness

If you evacuate your pets along with your human loved ones, you need to prepare for them as well as you do for humans. They need a go bag too. Shelters require pets to be in carriers or crates as they are also called. I think airline approved versions are the best. The reason for this is because the airlines have put thought into their requirements, and their reasons are good.

Ventilation is required on all four sides of the crate. There are height requirements in relation to the size of the animal inside. The animal must be able to sit, lie down, stand up and turn around comfortably. Why would you want less for your beloved pet?

There should be a feeder and a water dish attached to the door. It is better if it is possible to remove the dishes without opening the door. The dishes will need to be cleaned and refilled. If the door must be opened to access the dishes, there is a risk that the animal will escape. Even if your pet would normally never run away, it is different in a disaster. Pets may easily panic and act abnormally.

Some carriers have space on the top for extra food.  If your carrier does not have space for food, you can fasten a container of food to the crate. Shelters may have food available, but your pet will be better off with their usual food available.

It is a good idea to actually pack a bag with a small container of at least a few days of food for your pet along with a favorite toy and grooming tools like a brush and comb and nail clippers. You will also need proof of current vaccinations and license for your pet in order to get them in the shelter. A photocopy of these documents is good to keep in your pet's go bag.

I was told that you also must have your pet microchipped for my local shelter. It is best to call your local agency that will run shelters during a disaster and find out what their exact requirements are for pets.

Some companies that provide transportation for evacuations during disasters will refuse to take animals. It is a good idea to inquire about this before the necessity arises. If the regular transport for disaster will not evacuate your pets, but the shelter will accept them, you must find out how to get your pets to the shelter.

My local shelter will accept two pets per person in a disaster shelter. You will need to find out what is acceptable in your local shelter in the event of a disaster. 

None of these rules apply to service animals. In the United States, there are more than one kind of service animal. Some animals have a different classification called a companion animal. A companion animal is not allowed in shelters, according to the person I spoke to.

Different countries have different requirements for documentation for service animals. You must find out what they are for your own area, or country.

This is an example of a patch you can use for your service animal.
In the United States, different states and even areas within states regulate service animals differently. We have national laws about this under the A.D.A.,  but enforcement can take a while. It would not be a good thing to have an issue with it during a disaster.

It is a good idea to have all the documentation possible for your service animal. There are national agencies that provide tags, and other documents as well as a phone service for verification. They want money to do this, of course. This is the safest thing to do. If you can not afford their price, you will have to do the next best thing. Find out what is available in your area by contacting local disabled rights organizations.

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