For many Australians, the last few years have unfortunately made it all too clear just how important it is to plan for an emergency or disaster. It is essential we have an emergency plan in place that includes our companion animals. Our pets rely on us completely, so we need to plan for them so that they have the best chance of evacuating to safety if an emergency arises.
This is general advice only and exact preparations will depend on your companion animal and your situation. For further advise on emergency planning and tips to keep everyone safe, we encourage you to read the advice on the RSPCA Knowledgebase.
Planning for pets is an important part of emergency household preparations. Ultimately, it is important to have a plan, to practise it and to implement it without delay when needed.
Having a clear, written plan in the case of an emergency can save lives. The first step to creating a pet emergency plan should be to consider what you will do with your pets if you need to evacuate. This may be a family member or friend or boarding facility in a safe place.
It is essential your pet is registered and microchipped, and that the microchip details are up to date – this is always crucial but especially so in an emergency situation. This will ensure you have the best chance at reunited with your companion animal if you happen to separate. Vaccinations should always be kept up to date but this may be especially important in an emergency (for example, it may be a requirement of a boarding facility).
A pet emergency plan should also involve ensuring your pet is trained to be settled in a carrier/crate and is comfortable being transported.
Prepare your pet emergency kit
Preparing a pet emergency kit is an essential part of the planning process. It will ensure that you have everything you need to activate your plan quickly. The kit should include a folder containing registration and vaccination certificates, contact details for your vet, local animal shelter, local council and alternative animal accommodation facility, medications with instructions, medical records or summary of your animal’s health conditions and treatment, and a photograph of your pets. It should also include: transportation equipment (cages / carriers / crates / horse floats as appropriate to your animal etc.); cat litter or tray for cats or small mammals or poo bags for dogs; ID tag (including your pet’s name and your mobile phone number); collars, leashes etc.; food and water bowls, and at least one week’s supply of non-refrigerated food; blankets, bedding or nesting material; and toys.
Once you have a plan in place, it’s important to practice it! Practice will help you refine your plan and prevent you and your pets from panicking in the case of a real emergency.
Another good way to start planning is by keeping track of regular updates and early warnings through social media, websites or emergency hotlines. To do this you can sign up for alerts from your local emergency agency and check regularly for updates.
Activating your plan
Small pets should be contained within the home at the first sign of an emergency – this ensures they are close at hand if you do need to make the decision to evacuate.
Phone ahead to confirm arrangements with the safe location you have designated in your emergency plan, and pack your Pet Emergency Kit in your vehicle, allowing additional time for the special needs of some pets.
As different types of pet have different needs, we recommend following the tips on our Knowledgebase depending on your pet.
This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers