When we choose to build our home a mere three feet above sea level, we know that we are flirting with disaster. Hurricanes, storm surge, high winds, and flooding train us to become planners, radar watchers, and evacuation strategists. However, every time a storm rolls in, so does the heartbreaking footage of abandoned pets. 

There is never a reason to leave your pet behind in an emergency. Instead, make them part of your plan. Take the following action steps—preferably today—provided by Animal Medical Center of Naples, so your pet can stay safe no matter what storm comes to shore.

#1: Keep current identification on your pet at all times

While some disasters are predictable, others may give no warning. For all occasions, visible pet identification (i.e., collar and tags) are the fastest method for ensuring that your pet can be returned to you. However, pets can break their collars and tags can fall off, especially in an emergency, so pets should also be microchipped, which provides permanent identification, no matter what happens.

  • Action steps to take today:
    • Check your pet’s ID tags for legibility and current information.
    • Replace hanging tags with a collar tag, or an engraved or embroidered collar. You can also have your pet’s rabies license number engraved on the tag.
    • Microchip your pet at Animal Medical Center of Naples, or let us scan your pet’s current chip to confirm proper function.
    • Contact the microchip registry, to ensure your contact information is correct.
    • Include an alternate contact on your pet’s microchip and ID tag, in case you are unreachable. Select someone outside your evacuation party.

#2: Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and preventive care

Routine veterinary care allows your pet to travel at a moment’s notice. Boarding facilities, hotels, and some evacuation shelters, however, require proof of vaccinations, which can create a barrier during an emergency. Be ready—store your pet’s vaccine records in your phone, and keep a paper copy in your pet’s emergency kit.

  • Action steps to take today:
    • Schedule an appointment to update any overdue services.
    • Take photos of your pet’s vaccination records.
    • Print your pet’s vaccination records, and keep them in a waterproof box or pouch.
    • Include photos of you with your pet for identification.

#3: Have a “to go box” for your pet

Save precious time during an emergency with a pet supply kit. Store all items in a waterproof container in an easily accessible area. Estimate a five-day supply for each consumable item, and replace perishable items every three months, to ensure freshness. Your pet’s supply kit should include:

  • Vaccination records and identification information
  • Food and water
  • Medications
  • Pet dishes
  • Disposable litter boxes (e.g., cardboard flats from canned goods) and litter
  • Pet waste bags
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Extra leash and collar
  • Familiar toys or chews to relieve stress

Store your pet’s carrier or crate and the supply box close together, and label them with your name and phone number, and your pet’s name.

  • Action steps to take today:
    • Purchase a waterproof box
    • Gather supplies and put them directly in the box, to prevent items being lost or scattered.

#4: Know how to stabilize your injured pet

A basic understanding of pet first-aid will help you react calmly during a crisis. First-aid is not a replacement for veterinary care, but a way to stabilize your pet until you can transport them to the nearest veterinary hospital.

Include an easy to make pet first-aid kit in your emergency supplies, or use a human first aid kit for your pet, adding the following pet-specific supplies:

Also, pre-made pet first-aid kits are available online. Check the kit regularly and replace expired items.

  • Action steps to take today:
    • Learn basic pet first-aid.
    • Buy a pet first-aid manual, or print out the guide.
    • Build your pet first-aid kit.

#5: Know where you and your pet will go during an emergency

Identify pet-friendly accommodations along your route, remembering that hotels fill up quickly. Inland boarding facilities may be booked or closed. Build a master list of potential stop-overs, to ensure that you are not stranded because of your pet. Alternatives include:

  • Animal shelters — Large animal shelters and humane societies may offer temporary housing for displaced pets. Call ahead to find out which locations provide disaster relief.
  • Veterinary hospitals — Likewise, during an emergency, some larger clinics out of the storm’s path may offer temporary shelter.
  • Friends or family — Ask out-of-town friends or family if they would be able to care for your pet during a disaster. 

Have a written care plan for your pet in case of a prolonged separation, illness, or death. Ask your caregivers if they are comfortable with assuming the care of your pet before including them in the plan.

  • Action steps to take today:
    • Examine your normal evacuation route and contact pet-friendly locations along the way.
    • Contact family or friends who might host your pet on a temporary or permanent basis.

An emergency or a disaster can change our lives in an instant, but a well-designed plan can make the difference between your pet’s life and death. Don’t wait to get started—take the necessary steps today, to ensure your pet’s future safety.

For more information about disaster preparedness for pets, or to update your pet’s vaccinations, contact Animal Medical Hospital of Naples.