Preparing your Pets and Animals for Disaster

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Hey, we know how it is. You’re a heads-up kind of ball-player, and you pay attention to the news. You’ve heard for years that the Pacific Northwest can expect The Big One — the subduction zone earthquake — any moment, any day.

And you’ve seen people fleeing wildfires, packing what they can fit into their car, and driving away without knowing whether their house will be there when they’re allowed to return.

We all know the risks. And we all want to be prepared. A lot of us have done some of that. But few of us have done enough.

If disaster hit tomorrow, would you know how to get your family — including your animals — to a safe place, with enough food and medicine and other supplies to last at least several days?

And what about large animals that can’t pile into the car with the rest of the family?

And you know us. We’re SPOT! We’re not projecting a doomsday vibe around here. But it’s our job to give you the tips and know-how to live a healthy, safe life with your pets. And more and more, we’re reminded that being healthy and safe requires a judicious amount of preparing for the worst.

So here’s our guide, with the help of our region’s best experts. Sit down and take in this valuable advice. And then we hope you’ll put it to use. By that, we mean we hope you’ll be fully prepared for whatever life throws your way. And then we hope you’ll never have to put it to use.

Yes, maybe you’ll do all the smart prep and you’ll never have to navigate your way through a disaster. That’s certainly not the worst thing that could happen, right? The worst thing would be finding yourself in the middle of a life-changing event and realizing you’re under-prepared.

Be well, Spot friends. And be safe. We’re here to help.

Expert Advice from Jamie Kanski, Regional Coordinator, Pet Evacuation Team

Every year – with national news stories about disasters – we’re encouraged to develop an evacuation and disaster plan for our families and homes. And, if your home includes animals, it’s vital to include them in your disaster plans.

The Pet Evacuation Team (P.E.T.) helps people and communities prepare. They provide community education materials and presentations, including a plan that likely would save the lives of many animals during a disaster. P.E.T. also provides rescue and evacuation services during emergencies.

Here’s an overview of P.E.T.’s disaster preparedness advice:

For Companion Animals

If your area receives an evacuation notice, always evacuate with your animals whenever possible. Create a grab-and-go kit for each pet. It should include:

  • a crate

  • an information sheet with contact information for you and your family

  • your pet’s photo (keep it with you to help identify and prove ownership if you and your pet(s) are separated)

  • vet/medical/behavioral history

  • 3-5 days of each pet’s food

  • comfort items

  • leash, collar and identification 

For Large and Livestock Animals

Your disaster preparations should include:

  • a means to transport animals

  • animal-safe marker for information on animal

  • information sheet with photo/contact information/veterinary and behavioral information.

  • feed, lead, halter

  • an assigned location for temporary housing

Large animals take longer to evacuate. If your area receives an alert for pending evacuation, don’t wait for the final alert. Animals sense your stress and will evacuate much more easily when you’re calm and time is available.

If conditions and time don’t allow you to evacuate large animals, remove their halters, write your contact information on each animal with an animal-safe marker, release the animals from all barns, stalls, and corrals, and then close the doors and gates. This offers them their best chance of survival, allowing them to move away from threats if needed.

Tips from Spot:

Place important documents and photos in plastic bag for water-resistance and safer-keeping.

Consider packaged pet meals with high nutrition and delicious flavors like Beef & Rice by Portland Pet Food. It’s also useful as a treat to entice a stressed pup in a tense situation, has a two-year shelf life, and travels well. 

Remember to check and update your kit every year. We choose September to coincide with National Preparedness Month.

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Tips from Portland’s Own Preventive Vet, Dr. Jason Nicholas

Oregon’s Preventive Vet is our favorite go-to resource for a doctor’s insight into health and safety topics. Dr. Jason Nicholas reminds us that when a disaster hits, the last thing we want to do is start searching around for supplies. Disasters cause their own chaos. Some advance planning will prevent you having to think about these details when you’re in a panic.

Supplies for a Pet First Aid Kit

Dr. Nicholas lists the following tips on his website:

Water: he recommends not only having 1-2 weeks of fresh water on hand, but also having a filtration system (some affordable and highly portable gadgets are available at camping and sporting stores) so you can create more fresh water if your supplies run low.

Food: you’ll need 1-2 weeks worth for each member of your family

Restraint: leashes, harnesses, collapsible crates or pens — whatever you might need to safely contain pets

Medicine: Keep 1-2 weeks worth of all prescription and over-the-counter medications on hand. Ask your vet for advice and help on keeping an emergency supply on hand. And be sure to rotate your emergency supply so it doesn’t expire in storage.

Potty supplies: poop bags for dogs, training pads, cardboard boxes or extra litter boxes, kitty litter

Injury care: bandages, cotton swabs, disinfectant, and saline solution to wash wounds (find specifics and links to recommended supplies on the Preventive Vet site)