Emergency Preparedness for Your Pet: 8 Things I Learned from 8 State Hurricane Kate
Guest Post by Jenny Pavlovic
8 State Hurricane Kate, an old Australian Cattle Dog, was rescued in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I met her at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA, where rescued animals were taken for care and shelter, almost three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Her paperwork said that she was rescued from a rooftop nine days after Katrina, with no known ID or address. She was lost, down for the count, and quickly running out of options, so I decided to foster her. When we had to evacuate for Hurricane Rita, I drove 1,200 miles home to Minnesota with Kate in the back seat. We traveled through eight states, which is how she got her name. I listed her on Petfinder and went to great lengths to find out where she came from. I even posted this “Do You Know This Dog?” video on YouTube. Yet now, almost 5 years after Hurricane Katrina, I still don’t know what her life was like before August 29th, 2005. Somebody must still wonder what became of her.
Kate was a dog, but her story holds valuable lessons for cats and other animals as well. All that I learned from my journey with Kate inspired me to write the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book, to keep all of my dogs’ information in one place, for daily use, travel, and emergencies. This book includes important information from Noah’s Wish, a group dedicated to taking care of animals in disasters. The following tips can help keep you and your pets safer and happier.
8 Things I Learned from 8 State Kate
1. Microchip your pet. We learned after Katrina how easily lost pets can lose their collars and ID tags. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the only sure way to have permanent ID and to verify ownership. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule about the size of a grain of rice. Once implanted, the chip is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified of the ID number. You need to register your contact information with the microchip company so they can use the ID number to reach you. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if the company knows how to reach you. You may also register the microchip and your information at http://www.petlink.net/, a 24-7 registry and recovery service. Even if your pet never leaves the house, I recommend a microchip. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A cat that carries no other ID is especially vulnerable without a microchip. Some communities now offer single-fee lifetime licensing for pets that are microchipped.
2. Keep good pet records, including a current photo of you with your pet (to verify ownership) and photos of your pet’s unique identifying characteristics (markings, scars, etc.). Store your pet’s vet, food and medication records in one place (like the Not Without My Dog book). Include information like the pet’s daily routine, words the pet knows, and other tips that would be useful to someone taking care of your pet in an emergency situation. Make sure a designated family member, friend or neighbor knows where your pet’s information is stored, in case something happens to you.
3. Make a disaster plan for your family and pets. Be aware of the most likely disasters in your area: floods, fires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, chemical spills, etc. Be prepared to survive without outside assistance if you must stay in your home during a natural disaster. Prepare a disaster kit to meet the basic needs of your family and pets for three days or more. Store it in waterproof containers that are easily accessible. Know the local evacuation routes and where you will take your pets if you must leave your home. Do not leave your pets behind. Know how you will transport them and where you will go. Have plan A, B, and C destinations (emergency shelters for people most often do not allow pets). http://www.petswelcome.com/, and http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/ may provide helpful information, but remember that hotels may fill quickly in a disaster situation. Does your family, including pets, fit in one vehicle? If not, how will you transport everyone to safety? Do you have carriers, leashes, and harnesses for all of your pets?
4. Have a family communication plan in case a disaster occurs while you’re separated at work and school. Know where your family will meet if you can’t reach each other by phone. If all family members are away from home during the day, identify a neighbor or petsitter who will get to your pets quickly if they need help. It’s better to ask for help now than to be without a plan.
5. Make sure your pets are properly vaccinated and treated for fleas and ticks, and on heartworm preventative. Healthy pets are better prepared to survive anything, including possible displacement, and housing with other animals. Accepted vaccination protocols are changing and some over-the-counter flea and tick treatments are not approved by veterinarians. Do your own research and decide what is best for your pet.
6. Train and socialize your pets. A positively trained pet will be more comfortable and less likely to get lost. Socialize dogs and cats so they’ll be confident (not fearful) in different situations. Make sure your pets are comfortable riding in their carriers in the car and know how to walk on a leash/harness. Teach your pets to wait before jumping out of the car (after a pause, give them a treat). You may think that you can’t train a cat. But I used to have a cat that came when I called “Come get a fishy treat!” because I always produced a “fishy treat” when she arrived (ok, maybe she was training me!). This trick can help you find a pet that’s hiding under a foundation or lost in the neighborhood.
7. Tune in to your pets. They’re tuned in to you. Give them opportunities to do what they were bred to do. Help them relax and be confident. Appreciate them for who they are. The more connected you are to your pets, the better you will weather anything together.
8. Be resilient. An old girl who has lost everything can recover with dignity and grace, and be happy. Kate taught me this too.
Jenny Pavlovic is the author of the award-winning 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog and the new Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book. There just may be a Not Without My Cat Resource & Record Book in her future. You can learn more about Jenny on her website or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. (Photo credit: LS Originals of Fridley, Minnesota)
Read my review of 8 State Hurricane Kate here.