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Keep domestic pets safe from peril

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When faced with impending disaster, families may be faced with the nerve-racking task of evacuating their homes. While packing disaster kits and vital supplies ahead of time can make the process run smoothly, there are bound to be oversights amidst the chaos.

Even though many pets are considered part of the family by many owners, domesticated animals are sometimes lost in the hustle and bustle. However, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests, it is not a good idea to leave pets at home when faced with an evacuation because odds are they will not survive. And, in the rare case that the animals do survive, they often run away and are never found again.

FEMA has some tips for pet owners to consider when planning for the worst-case scenario.

PROPER PLANNING

When putting together a disaster preparedness kit and action plan, pets should be included in the process. Determine where the closest shelter is, and find out if that shelter accepts pets–some do not due to health and safety concerns. Call any local animal shelters or the Hawaii Humane Society to determine if they will be able to accomodate ones pet during a disaster. Keep in mind that most boarding facilities and kennels will need medical records and other important paperwork prior to accepting pets, so make sure to include those in emergency preparedness kits.

In the event that a pet owner must leave one’s companion behind, the pet should be left in the house with plenty of food and water–leaving the toilet seat cover up will allow the animal to use that water source if necessary. Pets should not be tied up, as they will be unable to seek other means of sustenance if the owner does not return in time. Owners should post a notice outside the home to notify any potential search and rescue crews as to what animals are in the house, along with a contact number.

WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

At the onset of a disaster, pets should immediately be brought indoors. This will protect them from any flying debris or other harmful elements, and will stop them from running away when sensing drastic changes in the weather. Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes, an feed pets canned or moist food so they won’t need to drink as much additional water.

Different animals should be separated during a disaster because, even though dogs and cats usually get along, they may act irrationally during the stressful situation. Keep smaller pets away from larger ones to prevent any skirmishes.

THE AFTERMATH

In the dreaded scenario faced by families forced to relocate following a disaster, pets should not be left behind as the chances of survival are slim to none. In the first couple of days following the disaster, keep pets on leashes or close to their owners as the animals may still tend to act irrationally until they are assured that danger has passed. Familiar scents and landmarks may have disappeared or changed, so pets need to settle in to the new surroundings.

For more information on disaster preparedness for pets, contact your local animal shelter or log on to www.FEMA.gov.

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