Wildfires were one of the biggest stories of the summer of 2015 in Saskatchewan. While you may not live in an area where there is a danger of wildfire, that doesn’t mean you can be complacent. Consider the possibility of severe flooding. A tornado. A major chemical spill. Severe winter weather. An extended power outage.
What if you were forced to remain in your home for several days until emergency help arrived? What if you had to evacuate your home suddenly?
The bottom line is that a bit of preparation now can make a world of difference, just in case of disaster.
People living in urban areas may find the following tips useful in creating a pet-friendly emergency plan. Livestock producers and farmers may also wish to review the information on the provincial government website at http://www.saskatchewan.ca/live/public-safety-protection-and-emergency-services/disaster-prevention-and-preparedness
Start with the basics
While the prospect of creating an emergency plan can seem daunting, it doesn’t really have to be. It’s a matter of common sense and thinking realistically about the potential dangers that might be encountered in your area.
As a responsible pet owner, you are probably already doing many of the things you need to do to protect your pet in an emergency situation.
- Ensure vaccinations and identification tags are current and make sure your pets wear a collar with an identification tag at all times. Consider having your pets microchipped to provide permanent identification.
- A picture is worth a thousand words, especially if you ever have to try to locate a missing pet. Grab your cellphone or camera and snap some colour shots of your pet; make sure to get pictures of any unique identifying marks or features. And while you’re at it, take a picture of you and your pet together. It’s a simple way to help establish ownership if your pet becomes separated from you for any reason.
- Monitor your pet’s health and seek veterinary care promptly if you notice any signs of illness or serious injury. Consider taking a pet first aid course, where you can learn how to handle and transport a sick or injured pet.
- Create a pet first aid kit suitable for use at home or when traveling. A sealable plastic container, a tackle box or a small tool kit can be used to keep the contents clean and organized. Remember to store the kit safely out of the reach of children and pets.
- Changing weather conditions can be stressful for some pets. Animals may become agitated during a storm and try to run away to hide. Bring your pets inside and cover bird cages when there are storms in the forecast.
Emergency supplies for pets
Experts recommend having a family emergency kit with water, food, medicines, and other items that will help you and your loved ones manage for a minimum of three days. If you have pets, you need to plan for their needs as well:
- food (enough for each pet for at least 3 days)
- water (enough for each pet for at least 3 days): allow 4l/day of water for each dog; 1l/day for each cat
- food and water dishes and a manual can opener
- a pet first aid kit
- medicines and medical records for your pet
- an extra leash and collar
- crate or carrier lined with blankets or towels
- pet toys
- plastic garbage bags and paper towels
- newspapers, pet litter and a litter box
- for birds: a catch net, blanket or sheet to cover the cage, and a cage liner
- for small pets such as gerbils and hamsters: a salt lick, an extra water bottle, a small box or tube for the pet to hide in, and a week’s worth of bedding.
Gather all these items in one location and store them in an easy-to-transport box or duffle bag. You might not be home when disaster strikes, so make sure all family members know where to find the pet emergency supplies.
In case of an evacuation
If it becomes necessary to leave your home, try to take your pets with you. However, depending on the circumstances, that may not always be possible. Always follow instructions from the local authorities in charge of the emergency response in your area.
Depending on the severity and the duration of the emergency, evacuation centres and other temporary services may be established in your area. In general, pets are not allowed to stay at evacuation centres.
In some situations, you may have sufficient warning to self-evacuate prior to the emergency. You may be able to stay with pet-loving friends or family who live outside the immediate emergency area. Hotels and motels that accept pets are another option; have a list of phone numbers ready so that you don’t have to scramble during an already stressful situation.
You may need to board your pets in the event of an emergency. Kennels and some veterinarians may be able to care for your pets. Remember that you will likely be asked to provide proof that your pet has had all the appropriate vaccinations.
If you are ordered to leave your dogs or cats behind, leave a sign in the window of your home indicating that there are animals inside. Do not tether or cage your pets. Leave a generous supply of food and water in the house for them, ideally in battery-operated timed dispensers. Also, you may want to leave the toilet seats up as an additional source of clean drinking water for your dog. http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/plns/ptsndsrvcnmls-en.aspx
When the emergency is over
Once the danger has passed, you still need to be diligent. You may want to put your pets on a leash for a few days to keep them away from downed power lines, wild animals or other hazards in the area. Talk with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about behaviour issues in your pet following an emergency.
Our pets depend on us to protect them from harm, every day. A bit of advance planning can make the world of difference to you, your family and your pets in the event of an emergency.
For further information
- See the provincial government website http://www.saskatchewan.ca/live/public-safety-protection-and-emergency-services/disaster-prevention-and-preparedness for detailed information for homeowners, farmers, rural landowners, and municipalities.
- The Government of Canada’s website, gc.ca, provides useful information on identifying potential safety hazards, making a family safety plan, and creating emergency kits.
- Canadian Red Cross: redcross.ca
- John Ambulance: www.sja.ca
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/