As Tropical Storm Marco makes landfall and Hurricane Laura advances toward the coast amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Humane Society says it is critical for individuals with pets to make a disaster preparedness plan and remember: if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.
This week, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International rescue teams are deployed to assist people and their pets in multiple disaster-affected areas, including Beirut, Lebanon and areas in the path of the tropical weather system to conduct pre-storm animal shelterevacuations.
“These lifesaving transports move adoptable animals out of harm’s way while freeing up local shelters to care for animals displaced by the storms,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful to the rescues and shelters who are opening their doors to these dogs and cats at a time when many are already strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, it is critical for individuals with pets to make have a disaster plan in place.
Evacuating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for families with pets, requires planning to ensure health and safety. If possible, identify family members and or friends in a safe location who can provide you and your pets a place to shelter in the event you need to evacuate. Staying with a friend or family member in a safe location is preferable to relying on an emergency shelter during this time because services may be limited and social distancing will likely be harder to maintain.
Have a disaster kit ready in your home at all times. Some items that should be included:
- Food and water for at least 5 days for each pet. Also bring bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
- Medications for at least 5 days and all medical records, including vaccination history. Keep these stored in a waterproof container. You may also consider storing them digitally on a flash drive or online.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with tags for identification. Microchipping your pet is ideal as collars can be easily removed.
- Pack a pet first aid kit.
- Litter box with extra litter and a scoop.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport pets safely.
- Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your animals.
- Comfort items, which may include a pet bed or a special toy, to reduce stress.
- Written information about your pets feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian. This information can also be kept digitally.
Other useful items:
- Hand sanitizer
- Paper towels
- Plastic trash bags
- Grooming items
- Household bleach
Some helpful tips for the safety of your furry family members:
- If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet. Never assume that you will be allowed to bring your pet to an emergency shelter. Before a disaster hits, call your local office of emergency management to verify that there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets. Keep in mind that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency sheltering options may be limited. Have a list of hotels and motels that accept pets in a 100-mile radius of your home. Keep in mind that in a catastrophic event, local hotels will fill quickly and may not be available. Make arrangements with friends or relatives in advance to ensure that you and your pets are able to seek shelter in their home, if needed. If housing together is not an option, know the requirements of your kennel or veterinarian's office for pet boarding. And as a last resort, connect with your local animal shelter to determine if they will offer temporary boarding during the time of crisis. They may too be impacted by the disaster and unavailable to house animals.
- Have a plan in place for when you are out of town or cannot get home to your pet when a disaster strikes. Find a trusted neighbor, friend or family member and give them a spare key. Ensure that they know your pets feeding and medication schedule, and if using a pet sitting service, find out ahead of time if they will be able to help in the event of an emergency.
- If you stay home, do it safely. If your family and pets must wait out the weather event at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide. Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area. Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification. If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape. Listen to the radio periodically and do not come out until you know it's safe.
- If the electricity goes out. If you're forced to leave your home because you've lost electricity, take your pets with you.
To learn more about keeping your pet safe in the event of a disaster, please visit their website . You can also find information related to COVID-19 and pets . The HSUS also offers tips on disaster preparedness for horses and livestock here and here and a guide to protecting outdoor community cats here.