Disaster planning must include your pets’ needs

On Grays Harbor, we are at risk of a natural or man-made disaster disrupting our lives.

By Dr. Sonnya Crawford

On Grays Harbor, we are at risk of a natural or man-made disaster disrupting our lives. A disaster preparedness plan for not just our family, but also our pets is important to have in every household.

Before Hurricane Katrina, people were told to evacuate without their animals, but not anymore. It is understood by all first responders that it is important for people to save their animals too. Even if you are told to evacuate for a short time, you are encouraged to take your pets. After all, a “short time” often turns into days or weeks.

Do not wait until it’s too late; have a plan now for your pets and animals in the event of a natural disaster.

Prepare an evacuation kit for your pets that includes a carrier for each animal. In the event of an evacuation, these carriers may need to serve as temporary housing, so plan accordingly. They need to big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. For cats, the carrier should be big enough for a makeshift litter box, sleeping area and eating area.

If you have horses, you should have a halter and lead rope for each of them and access to a horse trailer. Consider forming a local co-op of horse owners that would be willing to share trailering and transportation, and arrange for temporary stabling outside the disaster area.

In your animal evacuation kit, include enough food and water for a week for each of your pets. Also make sure you have medications and vet records for your smaller pets and health certificates, registration and Coggins tests for your horses.

It is a good idea to keep a photo of each pet in the kit in case you get separated and need to identify them. You will also want to add a list of contacts — phone numbers for pet-friendly hotels, friends or relatives out of the area that you could easily drive to, and veterinarians in and outside your area. If you own a horse, add names of hay and feed distributors, stabling facilities, and areas such as fairgrounds that could provide temporary stabling.

Each pet should have identification attached to a collar or harness. The ID should clearly list your name and contact information, contact information for a friend or family member outside your area, and your veterinarian’s information. For horses, you can attach a luggage tag with this information to the halter or braid it into the mane. Alternatively, write the information on your horse with a livestock marker.

If your pets are not microchipped, consider doing that now.

If you would like more useful information, the American Veterinary Medical Association offers detailed plans, videos and brochures on disaster preparedness for your pets at AVMA.org/disaster.

Sonnya Crawford, DVM, is a veterinarian at Grays Harbor Veterinary Services in Montesano. Her pets include two cats, numerous parrots, a giant bunny and saltwater fish. Her special interests are in avian medicine, veterinary dermatology and dentistry. Reach her at drsonnya@gmail.com.