The recent fires in San Diego County have reminded us all of the importance of being prepared for emergencies, especially evacuations. Pets have been separated from their families because of something as simple as not wearing a collar. Planning ahead for such unexpected events is easy to put off, but we hope we can provide some reminders here for you so that your pets will be safe in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Keep your cat carrier or dog crate
Some of us clean out our garage or closet and wonder whether we want to keep storing that pet carrier we haven’t used in years. YES! You do want to keep a carrier at home in case you need to evacuate your pet. Emergency shelters are more likely to accept pets than they used to be, but they will (almost always) require you to have your pet contained in order to have them with you. Plastic carriers usually come apart to make storage easier, and there are fold-down metal or fabric options too (the latter should only be used for pets who are well acclimated to confinement. Be sure you have your contact information ON the crate too. Use clear packing tape to thoroughly cover a written sign (include your pet’s name too), or attach a specially made tag to the wire grate.
Even if your pet eats raw food you want to keep shelf-stable food on hand in case of emergency. Cans last the longest, but dry, freeze-dried, and dehydrated food can also be stored. Note the “best by” date and be sure to feed or donate the food before it expires, then rotate in a new batch. You should try to store enough food for a week. Putting a gallon of water aside for your pet is a good idea too.
Be sure your pets are wearing collars with ID tags, and that the information on your pet’s ID is current. It’s not a bad idea to have an extra collar or harness (harnesses are more secure in emergencies) with tags stored in your pet’s emergency stash. Have your pet microchipped, and be sure to follow-up and complete the registration for the microchip to have current and complete information. This should include contact information for someone outside your household who could help your pet in the event that you can’t be reached. San Diego County Animal Services is now using Find Rover, a free facial recognition app for smartphones, to help reunite owners with their pets, so consider uploading your dog’s photo today as a “just in case” precaution.
Tape an envelope to your carrier (or to your backup food) to store important information such as alternate contacts, veterinary and insurance information, medication information, dietary or supplement needs, behavioral concerns, and any health conditions that might not be apparent. Have copies of photos of your pet that can be used to clearly identify them. Take a photo from the side and from the front, and print them together on a page. Consider storing a copy of the photos with your own emergency information or in the glove compartment of your car.
Have a spare set of dishes (stainless steel dishes are durable and nest together for easy storage), an extra leash, poop bags, First Aid kit (with how-to booklet), towel, grooming wipes, and any other supplies you think you could need (or could loan to another pet owner). Have a pet rescue sticker on the front of your house.
Talk To Your Neighbors
Be sure you and your neighbors are familiar with each other’s pets. Exchange contact information and form partnerships in case someone isn’t home at the time of an emergency.
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