How Do I Prepare My Pet For a Natural Disaster?

Many of us saw the image of a dog found floating at sea amidst a collection of debris three weeks after the Japanese tsunami, happily wagging his tail when eventually reunited with his owner. However, that lucky animal is just one of tens of thousands that were displaced by the massive waves and flooding following the 8.9-magnitude undersea earthquake on March 11, 2011.

“There is no way to know how many animals need help,” says Elizabeth Oliver, founder of Animal Rescue Kansai in Japan. “But to give you an idea of the scope, we heard there were 6,000 registered dogs in Fukushima Prefecture alone, which means double or triple that number since most people don’t bother to register. And when we take into account the other seven prefectures hit by the tsunami, the total number is huge.”

Help and Hope for Japan’s Dogs After the Tsunami

Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK) is a 20-year-old organization dedicated to animal welfare in Japan. It has funneled resources and expertise to aiding animals affected by the tsunami. “We’ve been taking in animals, both those rescued on the road or those belonging to evacuees,” says Oliver. “After coming in, they are processed by our on-site vet: deworming, vaccination, microchipping, and neutering. Some animals are boarded; some are given up for adoption.” 

Other local organizations doing similar work include the Japan Animal Welfare Society, the Japan Veterinary Medical Association, the Japan Hearing Dog Association, the SPCA, and Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS).

“Our rescuers just drive down the street and see dogs that need rescuers,” says JEARS animal welfare activist David Wybenga. “You don’t need to go looking for dogs, you simply drive into the affected area, and they’re just there.”

How Do I Prepare My Dog for a Disaster?

Below you will find some general guidelines to help prepare yourself and your pet for a natural disaster.

  • Have Your Dog Microchipped 

At the very least, make sure its collar contains your name, address, and phone number. “Most of the animals we’re finding have not been microchipped, so we have to post pictures and descriptions and hope that someone will see that and claim the pet,” says Wybenga. “If there’s a microchip, you get the name and address of the owner by scanning it.”

  • Make a “Go Bag” 

A “Go Bag” should be something portable and filled with nonperishable food, water bottles, a dog bowl and a can opener, and a flashlight (ideally, a human-powered one that doesn’t require batteries).

  • Take Your Dog With You 

During evacuation notices for many disasters, local agencies tell people to leave pets behind. This was the case in Japan. “Take your pet with you, even if they say you can come back for it later,” says Oliver. “If it’s not safe for you to be there, then it is not safe for your pet either.”

  • Be Up-To-Date on Shots 

If your dog does get abandoned, the stress can make them more prone to diseases, like heartworms, easily preventable by up-to-date shots.

  • Have an Exit Strategy 

An exit strategy is essential if your exit may mean leaving the country. Know what the requirements and procedures are for animal travel for the departure airport, the airline, and the country you’ll be traveling to.

How Do I Prepare My Dog for a Hurricane?

The most important preparation you can do for your pet is to be prepared to take them with you if you have to evacuate. To do this, firstly, find out what shelters will accept pets by calling your local officials. Sadly, you will be turned away if you arrive at a shelter that does not accept pets. Make sure you know exactly where the shelter is and possible routes for getting there in an emergency.

Keep your pet’s carrier or crate handy so that you can grab it quickly in an emergency. This will be valuable in transporting your pet and keeping them safe and secure while at the shelter. Keep a couple of leashes on hand near the carrier so you can quickly grab these too.

Like humans, your pet needs food, fresh water supplies, and any medications they may be taking while evacuated from home. Ensure you have at least two weeks’ supply of your pet’s medication and parasite treatments within easy reach during an evacuation.  

Where Is the Safest Place to Hide in a Hurricane?

You can take some steps during a hurricane if you are not evacuating to a shelter with your pet.

  • Stay Inside With Your Pet

Find a safe interior room on the lower floor (a closet or bathroom). Keep your pet with you during the storm, and make sure you keep away from any glass doors, skylights, or windows. Cover your pet with a blanket and protect yourself with anything sturdy (table, etc.)

  • Do Not Use Any Electrical Appliances

Turn off major appliances (air conditioner and water heater) if your home loses power. Turn off the electricity at the breaker if flooding is occurring.

  • Do Not Go Outside

You and your pet must stay indoors at all times. Never go outside for any reason during a storm. Keep your pet contained after the storm. 

Know where to go in your local area to search for your pet if they become lost after a major storm.

What Should Be In An Emergency Dog Kit?

A dog or pet emergency kit is just as important to have as a human one.  

Your pet emergency kit should contain items that your pet will need for around two weeks, and the contents may depend on your individual pet’s needs. The following items could be included:

  • Freshwater
  • Pet food
  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • Any medications, including parasite prevention medicine (have a list of current medications)
  • Pet carrier or crate
  • Collar, harness, and leash
  • Dog life jacket

What Do You Do With a Dog During a Tornado?

If you live in a tornado-prone state, have all your pets identified with an ID tag and a microchip.

Place your pet in a crate as soon as the tornado warning has been issued and keep them with you inside. Your pet may sense the imminent danger and may be inclined to hide before the tornado arrives. However, do not leave your pet unattended in his crate, as he will be frightened by the events happening around him.  

Make your way to a pet-friendly shelter, or if this is not an option, find a safe interior room on the lower floor of your home (a closet or bathroom). Keep your pet with you during the storm, and make sure you keep away from any glass doors, skylights, or windows.

Know where to go in your local area to search for your pet if they become lost after a major storm.

Where Is the Safest Place to Hide in a Hurricane?

You can take some steps during a hurricane if you are not evacuating to a shelter with your pet.

  • Stay Inside With Your Pet

Find a safe interior room on the lower floor (a closet or bathroom). Keep your pet with you during the storm, and make sure you keep away from any glass doors, skylights, or windows. Cover your pet with a blanket and protect yourself with anything sturdy (table, etc.)

  • Do Not Use Any Electrical Appliances

Turn off major appliances (air conditioner and water heater) if your home loses power. Turn off the electricity at the breaker if flooding is occurring.

  • Do Not Go Outside

You and your pet must stay indoors at all times. Never go outside for any reason during a storm. Keep your pet contained after the storm. 

Know where to go in your local area to search for your pet if they become lost during a major storm.

How Can I Protect My Dog From Earthquakes?

Unlike hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes provide no warning at all before their arrival. However, this lack of warning does not mean that your pet can not sense that one is about to happen. If they do, they may panic and either run away or head to their favorite hiding spot. Know where your pet’s favorite hiding spaces are.

Ensure your pets are correctly identified with an ID tag and a microchip. This will aid with the return of any pets found as a result of the earthquake.

Let searchers and first responders know that you have pets living in your home with a pet alert sign on your front window.

If you can, grab your pet post-earthquake and put him in his crate. This will help keep him safe and contained in the event of aftershocks.

How You Can Help the Japanese Effort

The most obvious way to help is by donating money, which will still be needed months from now. You can also donate goods, such as cat food or bedding, and send them directly to the organization. Finally, you can help urge Japanese legislators to make animal rescue an official priority for future disasters.

“The hurricane Katrina disaster was the largest cat-dog rescue process in the world, and as a result of that, the U.S. specifically FEMA has required that projects must have a contingency for pets,” he says. “We’re hoping people will write the Japanese embassy, or the American embassy in Japan, and tell them to please do something more for the animals that are in distress.”

Article written by Author: Elijah Merrill and The Dog Daily Expert

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