With Hurricane Harvey bearing down on Texas we must take a moment to think of those affected by the storm and pray for their safety. We also should be reminded of the importance of having an evacuation plan in place for our own pets.
As a veterinarian I have been involved in responding to catastrophic storms. I spent time in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago and thankfully many things have changed since then. Hurricane Katrina’s effects were similar to Harvey, widespread devastating flooding was the main lasting effect. At that time, evacuations were ordered before Katrina hit and unfortunately those evacuation plans most often did not include pets. People were forced to leave their pets behind if they evacuated to go to shelters, which caused many people to stay behind. The ripple effect of this was that not only were the pets left in danger, but now the people who stayed behind were as well.
When the storm hit, the responders went in to try to rescue people and pets who stayed behind, and in doing so the responders were put in harm’s way. Flooding is dangerous in more ways than most people think about. Flooding results in seriously contaminated water that is a danger not only to drink, but also a danger to be in. Food and water supplies are very often destroyed in a flood.
Fortunately, many lessons have been learned since Katrina and laws have changed.
In 2006 the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed which required that all evacuation plans include pets and service animals. Since then more than 30 states have followed with a state mandate regarding the inclusion of pets in evacuation plans.
This is certainly good news for us pet lovers, but that is not enough. You need a plan for YOUR specific family and YOUR specific pet needs should you ever need to evacuate.
Tips for planning ahead should you ever need to evacuate with your pets:
- Where would you go? Would you be able to rely on shelters set up by Red Cross and other relief organizations? Would they likely be able to accommodate you and your pets? If not, do you have family or friends in another area where you could transport your family and pets should you ever need a place to stay?
- What should you bring? Food, water, all medications that your pets may need, and medical records for your pets – this is important should you need to show proof of vaccinations at a shelter site or if you must visit a veterinarian outside your hometown as they may need to see your pets’ medical history. Also consider leashes, collars, identification, comfortable bedding and appropriately sized secure travel crates. Is there anything else specific to YOUR pets that may be important to have for a long term stay?
- Speaking of identification-Do you have your pets microchipped-if you do GREAT-but is your contact information current in the database should your pet get lost? Is there an alternate contact listed should you lose phone service during an event?
To those in Harvey’s path- we are thinking of you and praying for your safety and the safety of your pets. To our readers- please take a few moments this week to make sure you have a plan in place should you ever need to evacuate with your pets!
Julie Bailey, DVM