Make sure your pet has microchip identification.
Prepare evacuation pet-survival kits
While you can't control a natural disaster, you can gain some peace of mind in knowing that you're ready for an emergency. Quality disaster planning takes every possibility into consideration, including the safety of pets.
Pet-survival kit includes
» A carrier (or pet crate) for each pet: Before a disaster strikes, teach pets that a carrier can be their safe haven. The crate should be large enough so the pet can stand up and turn around inside.
» Collar and leash: Keep these near the pet crates.
» Identification: Animals should wear an ID at all times. Keep current photos and ensure all cats and dogs have microchips. Owners who have moved or changed phone numbers should update their contact information at www.hawaiianhumane.org.
» Vaccination records: Keep pet vaccinations up to date and have veterinary records near carriers. Many kennels require proof of current vaccinations.
» Supplies for three days: Set aside dry pet food and kitty litter as well as newspapers, plastic bags, paper towels and cleansers to handle pet wastes. Include nonspill bowls for water and food, medications and jugs of fresh water.
Hawaiian Humane Society staff in Louisiana aiding the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina know firsthand the human and animal suffering that can result when pets are left behind to fend for themselves.
Pet owners can prepare themselves by ensuring that pet-care items are quickly accessible.
Think you're prepared? Then walk through the plan. That's the only way to uncover potential problems, such as discovering that your vehicle is too small to fit family, pets and pet carriers or that your dog is fearful of pet crates.
While preparation is important, the single most important thing is to take pets along if you must evacuate. Animals left behind can be injured, lost or killed. Animals left inside a house can escape through storm-damaged areas such as broken windows. Leaving dogs tied or chained outside could endanger their lives. Animals turned loose to fend for themselves can become victims of exposure, starvation or accidents.
Even if you decide to leave for just a few hours, take your animals. Once you leave, it's impossible to know how long you might be kept out of the area, what traffic and hazardous conditions might prevent you from returning.
While the humane society would like to see at least one pet-friendly emergency shelter in every district, pets are currently not permitted in any public shelters, so families must plan. This is a major concern, especially on Oahu, where more than half of homes have pets and some 330,000 cats and dogs are family members.
Although it is not ideal, as a last resort pets can stay in the car, parked in a protected area at an emergency shelter. It is important that this area be shaded throughout the day. Pets should be housed safely in their carriers, equipped with food and water. Car windows left slightly open will provide ventilation but keep out the rain. As soon as it is safe, check on the animals.
The most vulnerable areas are low-lying and beach or stream areas that can be flooded, and hillsides, which can have landslides after heavy rain. Residents of high-risk areas should arrange in advance to stay with a friend on higher ground.
Also, if you are planning to leave for a friend's home, don't wait for mandatory evacuation. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you might be told to leave your pets behind.
If you plan to board your animals, visit local veterinary clinics and boarding facilities ahead of time to inspect the kennels. Many boarding facilities require proof of current vaccinations, so ensure that shots are always up to date. The kennels should be located out of the hazard area and have a plan for emergency evacuation.
Families with pets who live on higher ground and opt to stay home during an emergency should determine the safest place away from windows and breakable objects. Pets must be brought indoors well ahead of time.
If the thought of a natural disaster seems like a prescription for anxiety, the best remedy is a well-thought-out plan that's been tested, and one that keeps your family, including your pets, protected and safe.