Disasters & Pet Preparedness

by Gregg Senko

The recent damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was catastrophic. The city of Houston received about nine months of rainfall in a span of 48 hours, and as we’ve all seen from the photos and video on the news, the dry landscape turned into an aquatic one. However, while damage can be repaired and buildings can be rebuilt, the loss of life, both human and animal, cannot be returned.  Although we do not face the pitfalls of hurricanes here in Northeast Ohio, it is entirely possible we could receive the precipitation aftermath, thus causing flooding. Let’s not forget the always real danger we face in the form of tornadoes and even the rare but possible earthquakes that have occurred here in the past.

While we as people can take actions to ready ourselves in case of disasters, natural or man-made, our pets cannot do the same.  They rely on us to provide the same readiness and care for them as we do for ourselves.  Just as you would for yourself, have a bag or rucksack ready to go filled with the essentials.  Think about what the needs are of your animal.  While we are all pridefully guilty of pampering our pets, please keep in mind that in the case of an emergency it is completely irrelevant what your cat or dog normally prefers to eat.  Have canned food on hand, make sure their collar is on (with tags) and have a leash on hand.  Don’t forget bottled water either.  It’s best not to make them rely on outdoor puddles or others for help.  Puddles can be bacteria-infested and you never know if and when help will show.  As my mother told me once, “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

A few months back I wrote a story about getting your pets microchipped.  As the famous Nike slogan states, just do it.  Make sure that chip is registered and activated too, otherwise that defeats the whole purpose of the chip itself.  In the case you do get separated from your pet, you want to make certain all aspects are in place to reunite you with the animal.  Finally, do not forget their medications.  There’s actually a new requirement in the State of Ohio regarding pet prescriptions stating that customers must provide the veterinary clinic with at least a 24-notice for a refill. In short, don’t be the person that waits until the medicine is gone, then show up at the clinic making demands.

Whether you call it your go-bag, your ready bag or your bug-out bag, make sure you have one on hand for your pet just as you would for yourself.  If these do not exist in your home, it’s definitely a good idea to buy a pre-packaged one or make your own.  Just buy a simple backpack and fill it with the necessary items.  It should also go without saying to keep your pets with you during an evacuation.  While that probably sounds like “no duh” advice, I still have to mention it after seeing photos of dogs tied to trees and poles in the rising waters of Houston.  Do everything right and you will increase the chances that you and your animal companion make it out safely together with the supplies to survive the immediate hours thereafter.