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How to prepare pets for a natural disaster: Climate change increases the likelihood of disasters for the entire family
How to prepare your pets for natural disaster: Climate change increases likelihood disasters for the entire family
How to prepare your pets for natural disaster
Photo by BecauseUAreHere Foter

Most of us don’t think about how to prepare ourselves for a natural disaster, let alone our pets. After the recent mass flooding event in the Ottawa Valley, it’s clear that disasters can happen close to home. Instead of having the mentality that ‘this can’t happen to me,’ most Ontario and Quebec residents have been faced with the reality that disaster can hit close to home.

Prepare for more frequent natural disasters

Natural disasters and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent as the climate continues to change. Greenhouse gasses trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere cause global warming, which leads to more precipitation, melting of sea ice and more intense storms. Ottawa University climate scientist Paul Beckwith told CBC to expect an increase in these types of flooding events, and that we are seeing the effects of climate change right now.

"Normally you think of climate change as being something that's happening over 20 or 30 years. But what we're seeing is the conditions on the planet are changing rapidly. So the arctic is a lot warmer than it used to be, so that's throwing off the heat balance on the whole planet," Beckwith said.

This is a familiar statement that has been made by the vast majority of climate scientists, as well as scientists in other related fields of study. Climate change increases the likelihood of these extreme weather events, which means that preparing your family is more important now than ever before. 

Veterinarian Dr. Ellen Lowery and Rich Anderson, Executive Director and CEO of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, have dedicated their lives to helping animals and understanding the bond between humans and their pet companions. They shared their tips on how to create an action plan so that every family is fully pet-prepared when disaster strikes.

How to prepare your pets for natural disaster Dr. Lowery and Rich Anderson interview

Pets are family too

“Just about anything can strike at any time,” said Anderson. “So regardless of the disaster that might strike, it’s important to make sure you and your pets are prepared.”

Pets should be included in this family. Evacuating the home without your fur family should be a worst-case scenario. In the event that you must leave your pet at home while evacuating, never leave a dog chained outside or let cats loose- keep them inside.  Provide ample food and water, and obtain a ‘pets inside’ sticker or put a sign-up notifying people of the pets inside.

“We recommend that pet parents have an emergency kit, just like they would for their human family members,” said Dr. Lowery. She also recommends knowing your pet’s hiding places in case you get separated during an emergency.

Create a disaster kit that’s unique to your pet

Disaster kits should be waterproof carriers, and items packaged inside should be in air-tight waterproof containers. Air-tight bags or Tupperware work great. A basic pet disaster kit should include:

  •  Three days of clean water just for the pet- in addition to the rest of the family’s water supply.
  •  Three days of pet food, some treats, and two collapsible bowls. Keep food in air-tight waterproof containers.
  •  All of your pet’s records and medical information. Two copies of all records are a recommended precaution. Also recommended are proof of ownership and recent photos of your pet, as well as photos of you with your pet.
  • Two sets of up-to-date identification tags and current microchip information. Any medication that the pet needs, as well as flea and tick preventative medication.
  •  A first aid kit that includes bandage tape and rolls, Quick Stop, scissors, sanitary gloves, cotton balls, tweezers, nail clippers, isopropyl alcohol, ear wash, calming treats, and a first aid information book.
  • An extra collar or harness and at least two leashes. A coat or boots and a canine life-preserver may also be recommended to have on hand as they may be useful in certain disaster situations.
  • Poop bags or litter and litter boxes. Bring a larger empty garbage bag to collect the waste.
  • Bring one or two comforting items that the pet is familiar with to ease anxiety and excitement. A few toys or some bedding that are compact and lightweight is ideal.
  • A pet crate or carrier with your contact information is attached. It is preferable to have an extra travel crate that is lighter and more compact- plus it is a great place to store your pet disaster kit.

Form a plan just for your pet

When evacuating a home the most important thing to do is find a safe place to go- for the family and the pets. Most emergency shelters don’t allow pets. Chances are the pet parent will have to pay for their pet to stay in a boarding facility or kennel. Any trustworthy boarding facility will ask that the owner provide proof of up-to-date vaccinations and ownership. Planning ahead will make an emergency evacuation go faster and smoother.

Create a plan to gather all household pets and contain them. Select an easy-to-access spot to keep crates and pet carriers and make sure everyone in the household knows where the carriers are located. Form a plan to set up lodging or boarding for your pet. Research kennels in your region and keeps a list of them with the phone number, email, address, hours of operation and rates for each one. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations for major viruses are up-to-date and that you have tags and paperwork to prove it. Specifically, the Kennel Cough vaccination is mandatory for dogs in most kennels. It’s also a good idea to notate any hotels that allow pets.

It’s important to gather all contact information for local resources that may help you in event of an emergency and the same is true for your pets. Make sure you have the phone number, email, and address of any animal control, Humane Society or SPCA in your area. Gather contact information for all local veterinarians’ offices and notate the ones with emergency services. Make doubles of all of these notes- keep one in a sealed waterproof container in your disaster kit. Add an app on your phone for local weather, traffic, and emergency alerts to stay informed.

People's Climate March April 2017 Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith Climate change

The tip of the iceberg

The problem of climate change has been easily avoidable for some people in the past, because it appeared to be a problem in the distant future, with no immediate effects. It is now painfully clear that we are suffering the consequences of our overconsumption now, in our current time. Anthropogenic climate change is happening, and the Ottawa Valley flooding of 2017 is just the beginning, Beckwith told CBC.

"We've changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans with our greenhouse gases, so we're seeing the consequences of this now," he said. "It's only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak." Beckwith made an educational and inspiring speech about climate change at the People’s climate march in Ottawa in April. You can view a video of his speech on our YouTube page.

This means that reducing our carbon footprint is just as important as preparing for future natural disasters. Consider consuming less part of your disaster preparedness plan! Preparing for whatever the climate throws at you is easy and inexpensive. Knowing your pet is safe during an emergency is priceless.

How to prepare your pets for natural disaster: Climate change increases likelihood of disasters for the entire family

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