Phil Boerner: 916-649-0599 (California Veterinary Medical Association)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
What Pet Owners Should Know About Disaster Readiness
Sacramento, CA – In light of the devastation on the Gulf Coast, now is a good time for California pet and livestock owners to reexamine their own disaster preparedness. The state has a plan for animals through the California Animal Response Emergency System, but animal owners and caretakers must create their own plans too.
“Every animal owner should have an emergency plan in place and ready to go,” said Eric Weigand, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association. “As search and rescue teams throughout the Gulf Coast continue to discover Hurricane Katrina survivors who will not leave flooded areas without their beloved pets, we’re reminded of how animals are an important part of our families. As such, they need to be a part of our pre-disaster planning.”
Just eight years ago, 300 square miles of California were flooded due to El Nino, causing 120,000 people to evacuate their homes and 48 counties to be declared disaster areas. These were the largest floods in California history, and they hit livestock and pets hard. No one can forget the picture of Rodeo, the dog waiting on a rooftop to be rescued from raging floodwaters.
With this and the tragic lessons of Hurricane Katrina in mind, the CVMA urges all animal owners to plan ahead and be prepared for disaster, using the following tips to ensure your animals are safely cared for if need be.
For dogs, cats, and other small pets:
- If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. You may be forced to stay away longer than anticipated, leaving animals defenseless.
- For health reasons, most emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter if they provide emergency care for animals during a disaster. Find out in advance which nearby motels and hotels allow pets.
- Be sure your pets are properly identified, ideally with both microchips and identification tags. A microchip under the skin can be “read” by scanners and the owners traced. Include your phone number on identification tags securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site, whether it’s a public shelter or a friend’s home, and a separate emergency contact number.
- Assemble an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include pet food, bottled water, medications, vaccination records, and a current photo of your pet. Also include your veterinarian’s phone number in case you need immediate medical advice.
- Always have a pet carrier and leash readily accessible.
- If you have no other choice but to leave your pets at home, keep dogs and cats in separate rooms, preferably without a window, such as a garage, bathroom, or utility room that can be easily cleaned. Leave enough food and water to last at least 48 hours. Post a notice advising what pets are inside the house and your evacuation site/phone number.
For horses (and other large pets):
- Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. Due to their size and transporting requirements, it’s essential that evacuation plans be in place beforehand. Know where you can take your horse in an emergency, whether boarding stables, racetracks, or fairgrounds. If you live in an area with lots of horses, plan ahead by setting up a community “buddy” system for evacuation.
- Secure permanent identification on your horse by microchip, tattoo, or freeze branding. If that’s not possible, supply temporary identification by braiding an ID tag into the mane, writing your name/phone number with a livestock crayon on the horse’s coat, or even shaving it onto your animal’s flank.
- Have your horse trailer hitched and pointed toward the road. If you do not own a trailer, make plans ahead of time with friends or another horse owner to trailer your animal.
- Prepare an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include vaccination records, medical history, identification photos of your animal, and your veterinarian’s phone number.
- Keep halters ready for each horse that include: the horse’s name, your name/phone number, and a separate emergency contact number.
- Keep a reserve supply of horse feed and water on hand.
If your animal becomes lost during an emergency, check local animal shelters at least every other day. Bring a photo and veterinary records with you to identify your animal. In case of flood, fire, earthquake, hazardous spill, or other disaster, your animals will rely on you to survive.
For more information about this press release, contact Phil Boerner at the CVMA at (916) 649-0599. To access past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center in the News Room at www.cvma.net.
The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 5,400 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.