By Dr. Becker
The 4.4 magnitude earthquake that shook Los Angeles a few months ago was another reminder to those of us who live in natural disaster-prone regions that it's a very good idea to prepare ahead of time for large-scale emergencies.
And if you're a pet owner who happens to live in an earthquake zone like L.A., hopefully, you've included your furry family member in your disaster preparedness plan. Unlike most other natural disasters, earthquakes give absolutely no warning, so excellent preparation is especially important for those who live in quake zones.
First Things First: Make Sure Your Pet Is ID'd
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA) provides a list of earthquake preparedness tips for pet guardians on its website.
The first thing you should do, of course, is insure your pet can be identified with a current ID tag (my favorite is the KOOGATAG), a microchip, or my favorite, side effect free option: your info tattooed on a tiny space of hairless skin on your pet's belly or inside the ear flap (performed under light sedation, of course). You should also have your pet's health and titer records on hand in the event your animal winds up in a shelter, rescue, or boarding facility.
The SPCALA recommends that human family members familiarize themselves with how to deliver first aid to pets. They also suggest as part of your disaster planning that you make arrangements with a neighbor, friend or family member to pick up and care for your pet temporarily if you're away from home when disaster strikes. It's also a good idea to put a pet alert sign in your window for emergency workers to see. You can either purchase one like this, or make one.
What to Include in Your Pet's Earthquake Preparedness Kit
In your pet's earthquake preparedness kit, the SPCALA recommends including the following items:
- Current photos of your pet, copies of vaccination [and/or titer] records, and contact information for your veterinarian
- Collar, leash, carrier and soft muzzle
- At least a three-week supply of pet food and bottled water, bowls, and can opener
- Treats, toys, blankets and towels
- Plastic baggies and cat litter for waste
- Pet first aid kit
It may seem obvious, but one of the first things you should plan for is to take your pet with you if you evacuate. You really have no way of knowing how long you'll be gone, and if staying in your home isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pet.
Make a list of places that can shelter your pet in an emergency. This might include a hotel or motel in your area or the home of a family member or friend. Ideally, you'll want to keep your pet with you, but if you must separate temporarily, keep a list of the addresses and phone numbers of any nearby veterinary offices and boarding kennels that could take your pet in an emergency, as well as the nearest animal shelter.
Make sure your back-up pet rescuer has a key or other means of access to your home and an idea of where to find your pet once inside. Agree ahead of time on a location where you can meet to retrieve your pet, or arrange for the person to provide temporary shelter.
In your pet's disaster preparedness kit, you might want to also include your pet's medications if any; information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavior problems; Bach Rescue Remedy for stress; and newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach. All the items in your kit should be kept in a sturdy container that is easily accessible, easy to carry, and is ready to go at a moment's notice.
In the event of an earthquake, try to stay calm. Pets are very sensitive to the moods of their owners, and if you're showing signs of anxiety and stress, your furry companion's fear level will increase accordingly.