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June 4, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society: Prepare... now!

Ohlone Humane Society: Prepare... now!

By Nancy Lyon

With nature wreaking devastation in other parts of the country, from East Coast flooding from super storm Sandy to the terrible tornado destruction of a whole community in Oklahoma, we are served a grim reminder of how much we are subject to the whims of nature.

In California, natural disasters that challenge our survival are primarily from fire and earthquake. This spring, temperatures rose to unseasonable highs in the 80's and 90's with winds whipping over grass covered hills already dried out and brown in May, putting us on notice of the long, hot summer to come with the fire danger high. Add to this, reports from the United States Geological Survey of increased volcanic activity in the Pacific Rim that may be a warning of earthquake activity on the rise in our area. Both situations should have the red flag flying.

Along with the incredible human tragedy of these terrible events, there is the loss and suffering of innocent animals - family companions, farmed animals and wildlife. While we may not be able to control these forces, we can minimize the injuries and loss of life to our animal friends if we prepare for calamities of nature.

The same rules of survival that apply to people apply to animals; being prepared makes the difference. If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for them, so make a plan before they happen.

Getting ready

Companion animals
Get to know your neighbors and develop a "buddy system." Ask a neighbor to check on your companion animals in an emergency situation like an earthquake if you are not home. They should know and be comfortable with this person before the fact. Offer to do the same for their animals.

Arrange temporary housing for your animals with neighbors or friends if your house becomes uninhabitable. Most human disaster-relief shelters won't admit pets, some may help you to find shelter for them but it will probably be low priority as they will be under great pressure. Keep an up-to-date list of veterinarians, kennels, and groomers that might be able to board them on short notice. Check for local motels/hotels that will take companion animals; those that don't may make an exception in an emergency situation.

Accustom them to portable kennels or other suitable pens, and keep one for each. During an emergency is not the time to start. You may need them for evacuation or temporary quarters. For multiple cat households, consider soft-sided carriers they take up less room in a vehicle. Pack a blanket, favorite toy, and a small garment with your scent on it, and paper towels for cleanups

Have a harness and leash for all dogs. Frightened dogs may pull out of a regular collar. Accustom them to the harness before the fact. Keep extras in your car.

Keep a first-aid pamphlet available and a kit with first-aid supplies. Check with your veterinarian about what should go into your kit. Better yet, take a class that teaches emergency aid for injured pets, it may save their lives.

If they are on continuing medication, talk to your veterinarian about keeping a backup supply and how to store it during an emergency. Always have at least a week's supply of their regular food. Store in an airtight/waterproof container and rotate often. Include a supply of favorite treats to keep them occupied if they must be confined. Try to follow your regular feeding schedule as this helps relieve stress and digestive upset.

Keep at least a week's supply of gallon-size containers of bottled water for each animal. Store in a cool place and rotate often. If you are instructed to boil your tap water, it means it's also unsafe for your animals to drink.

During and after
Don't hold your pet tightly during a quake. Animals instinctively want to hide when their safety is threatened. If you get in the way, even the nicest but frightened animal may bite or scratch you out of fear. Comfort them normally after they have calmed.

Whenever possible do not get separated. If you must evacuate do not leave your animals behind. The chances of them surviving are greatly decreased if you do.

If you are forced to leave them, post signs on your front and back doors alerting rescue workers that animals are in your home or on your property. List the type and name of your animals. If you can't find them or are forced to leave them at home after a quake or other disaster, leave fresh water in non-spill containers such as bath tubs and sinks; plenty of low-fat dry food, which deteriorates more slowly, and is less tasty so animals are less inclined to try and eat it all at once. Leave a note indicating you have animals and their names, where you will be, several contact phone numbers - an out-of-area contact number in case local lines are down, and the date.

Always make sure they are wearing identification with a current phone number and address. Even on your inside cat, keep them on a breakaway collar. Keep a supply of tags you can write on in case you are evacuated.

Talk to your veterinarian about micro-chipping as added ID insurance. This is very important because if your animals are relocated out of your immediate area there is a greater chance of a reunion. Many shelters have universal chip readers that can read more than one brand.

Have several current close-up photos of each with your important papers. They should show any special identifying marks. Store pictures in a ziplock bag to protect them from the elements. This will help identify them should they escape after a quake.

Keep vaccinations current including rabies, with copies of immunization records in an emergency kit. If they bite someone out of fear, it may prevent them from being impounded.

Large animals
Horses and farmed animals can quickly become statistics of fire, floods and other disasters and need special preparation because of their size. The following links will help people to ensure their survival:

Horse Evacuation - making advance arrangements

Farmed animals - extra consideration needed due to their size and transportation needs.

Many wild animals perish during fires and it behooves us to act responsibly while camping or using machinery that can spark an inferno. Never carelessly toss away cigarette butts or smoke in sensitive wilderness areas.

Thoughtful preparation is the key to survival.

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