Consider Pets in Your Preparedness Plan

By Laura Greene, American Red Cross

Fay Rosin-Sniffen of Idyllwild had taken a shuttle down the hill to run errands the day the small mountain community was evacuated due to the Cranston Fire, but luckily with a little hoofing and hitchhiking, she was able to make it back up to rescue her dog Faith.

Like many pet owners, Fay was willing to risk her life to save Faith during a disaster.

“I had saved her from death row,” Fay said of Faith, who she rescued from a shelter. “I couldn’t leave her behind.”

The American Red Cross understands the important emotional role that pets play in the lives of their owners, and encourages families and individuals to develop emergency preparedness plans for themselves and their pets.

Once safely evacuated, Fay – with Faith by her side – sought respite at the American Red Cross Shelter at Banning High School.

“Everyone here has been so nice and helpful,” she said, although she certainly wished it were a little cooler outside.

The Red Cross accommodates a wide range of people at its shelters, including infants, children and the elderly, and people with pet allergies, asthma or other health issues. For the well-being of all people, there often needs to be physical space between those at the shelter and pets and other animals. In this case, the Red Cross worked with the Riverside County Department of Animal Services to provide an off-site space for pets during the disaster.

Fay, however, was reluctant to part with Faith, so the pair was provided a canopy and a cot to rest on, along with periodic dog-sitting provided by Red Cross volunteers so Fay could take breaks to come inside to eat and use the facilites. Faith, along with numerous other pets outside the shelter, was provided with a bowl of water, a bag of ice and a garden hose with which to cool off.

Including pets in your emergency preparedness plan is the best thing you can do to keep them safe.

Know which hotels outside of your immediate area can accept you and your pets, or know which friends, relatives, animal boarding facilities and veterinarians can care for your pets in an emergency. Prepare a portable emergency preparedness kit for your pets that includes leashes, food, water, toys, medications, medical records and animal carriers. Be sure your pets are wearing secure collars with up-to-date identification. You should also be sure to evacuate with current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help to eliminate mistaken identity and confusion. Include your pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers calmly. Finally, if you think you may have to evacuate during a disaster, confine all pets to one room so you can quickly grab them and go.

Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for more information and resources developed by experts on how to maintain your pet’s health and what to do during emergencies. Red Cross apps can be found in the app store for your mobile device by searching “American Red Cross” or by visiting redcross.org/apps. You can also visit redcross.org/pets for tips on how to prepare your pets for disasters and how to include them in your family’s emergency plan.

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