Protecting Pets in Natural Disasters

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Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

23. How can a pet owner protect animals during natural disasters?

What type of pet; what type of disaster?

If you are fleeing floods or wildfires, you will probably not be able to take your animal into an emergency shelter for people who have been unhomed. Thus you will need either to have sturdy camping gear or a couple of credit cards to cover the cost of a motel that will let you bring your dog or cat.

In an earthquake, you probably will not be able to move fast enough to get your animal under a table or into a bathroom where the plumbing may hold the walls in place.

Mercifully I have had no experience with tornadoes but expect that if you have a storm shelter you should take the animals in there with you and pray for the best.

In general, though, I’d say if you have a dog or a cat, you should keep leashes or harnesses in the car along with the usual stuff you should have for yourself: ample water, blankets, and a first-aid kit. Before fleeing, package up enough kibble or canned pet food to last for at least a week. Bring cash and more than one credit card. Bring a functioning cell phone and a charger that will recharge the thing from your car. Have a “go bag” that includes paperwork for yourself and your animals—for example, proof of rabies and other vaccinations.

In a really serious disaster that affects large numbers of people (the New Orleans flooding after Hurricane Katrina comes to mind), the police may not be friendly (they will be extremely stressed) and the weather may be inclement. Bring rain gear for yourself and towels to wipe down your dogs. Be prepared to fend for yourself, as your pets will not be welcome in emergency shelters.