Have you ever wondered what happens to pets whose lives have been upended by natural disasters? With tornadoes tearing across the central United States, fire season coming up for the West and hurricane season coming hot on its heels for the Gulf and East coasts, the question is a timely one.
The unfortunate reality is that, whether dropped off on the way out of town, left behind or just lost in the confusion, many pets end up in local animal shelters or emergency shelters farther away. It often ends up being difficult to reunite these furry family members with their beloved humans.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do if you live in a disaster-prone region to prepare yourself and your pets in case of an emergency to give you and your four-legged family members all the best chance to make it through together.
- Get your pets microchipped
Having your pet microchipped can help a shelter or vet find you in the event of separation. If a shelter has taken in your pets and is unable to find you, they may end up being forced to put your pets up for adoption.
- Prepare an emergency kit
At the first warning of an approaching disaster, put together a disaster kit, including carrying case/crate, food bowls, sanitation materials, chew toys, medications, vaccination records and your vet’s contact information. Having up-to-date photos of you and your pet together can make it easier to be reunited with them in case you do get separated.
- Have a plan for where you’ll go
Some evacuation shelters and many hotels do not accept pets. Make sure you’ve done your homework ahead of time so you and your furry best friend can stay together. This may involve coordinating with out-of-town family or friends or finding pet-friendly accommodations in areas outside the danger zone.
- Get out early and take your pets with you
Leave as soon as you are able and don’t assume you’ll be able to come back later for your pets. The stress of the situation may cause your pets to run and hide, which can increase the chances of having to leave them behind. Avoid using tranquilizers if at all possible: if something happens and you do get separated, your pet will need all their wits about them and their instincts undiminished.
Hopefully, you’ll never need any of these tips and you and your pets can live in safety and harmony. But if disaster does strike, having plans in place can make the difference—literally—between life and death. And whether you’re directly affected by a disaster or not, you can help out by donating pet food to local shelters after a tornado, fire or hurricane to help them deal with swelling populations of pets and often limited supplies.