BILOXI, Miss. -- The sight of animals injured or abandoned in the wake of a disaster brings out an emotional response in people seeking safety and shelter for their pets. A better solution for the animals, however, is for the owners to plan their care well in advance of the need.
A better solution for animal care is the focus of a disaster response plan directed at pets and livestock by the Mississippi Board of Animal Health and emphasized by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Being prepared to evacuate and take care of family pets during an emergency requires planning,” says Dr. Jim Watson, state veterinarian. “Prepare early. Don’t wait for an evacuation order and don’t leave your pets behind.”
In the event of a disaster, here are some ways to protect your animals if you have to evacuate:
- Take current identification, medications and medical records and know in advance places where your pets will be welcome. Many shelters and hotels do not accept pets, but some hotels will waive the policy during evacuations.
- Be sure you have a pet carrier large enough to allow the animal room to turn around and be comfortable.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices outside the evacuation zone where you might need to stop.
- Take your pet’s own food to reduce the chance of stress-induced intestinal problems. Always have fresh water handy.
Preparing large animals to survive a disaster is more complicated.
- Find a destination for evacuation such as an agriculture center that can board large animals.
- If you have to leave livestock behind, be sure they have access to at least a week’s supply of water.
- Place veterinary papers, medical history and emergency phone numbers prominently in waterproof envelopes.
- Your phone number and name should be on their harnesses or halters or spray-painted on their sides. If possible, have a trailer ready if you need to move large animals out of danger.
- Be sure your shed or barn is clear of objects that can become flying debris in violent winds. If possible, reinforce the barn with hurricane straps to keep the roof from being dislodged.
Whether you have large animals or family pets, it’s wise to write a disaster plan that includes a list of needed supplies, tools, feed and water, and first aid equipment.
It’s never too early to create a disaster plan for you and your entire family. Information on this and other advice on disaster preparedness for animals is available on the Mississippi Board of Animal Health Web site, www.mbah.state.ms.us and from FEMA at www.fema.gov.
On the FEMA homepage, click on ‘Plan Ahead’. Under the ‘Protect Your Family’ header, click on ‘Care for Pets and Livestock’.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.