SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – If you are like the thousands of animal owners in the Island, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency, such as a fire or a flood depends largely on emergency planning done today. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge you to have a disaster plan for your pets.
“Individuals and families with pets must include them on their household disaster plans,” said FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa. “Early preparation is key for adequate handling of pets in a disaster. We advise entire families, including their pets, to be ready before an evacuation order.”
Before the Disaster: Have a Safe Place to Take Your Pets
Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Local veterinarians or organizations can be contacted for information on preparing household pets for an emergency.
- Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are all potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
- Prepare a list of facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have, as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
- If you have no option but to leave your pet in the house while you are gone, make sure it is in a safe place. Also, leave a sign that specifies how many pets are in the house and what type of pets they are.
- Contact hotels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
Prepare a portable disaster supply kit for your pet and keep it in an accessible place.
- Food and water for at least three days
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash. Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag in your pet’s emergency supply kit. In addition, place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container and also add them to your kit. You should also consider talking with your veterinarian about permanent identification such as microchipping, and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
- A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items. Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.
- First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Include a pet first aid reference book.
- Crate or other pet carrier. If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation take your pets and animals with you provided that it is practical to do so. In many cases, your ability to do so will be aided by having a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier ready to transport your pet. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
- Sanitation. Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs.
Know What to Do As a Disaster Approaches
- Often, warnings are issued hours, even days in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.
- Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
- Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice.
- Bring all pets into the house so that you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
- Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen.
You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.
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 FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov This includes developing a family communication plan, putting an emergency kit together, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved.
FEMA News Desk (787) 296-3554, 3560
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.