Don’t forget your Pet in a Disaster

(ARA) – When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Richard Colar’s neighborhood was flooded with 13 feet of water. He lost his home and lived in a FEMA trailer for over three years following the storm. Even more devastating for Colar was that he was forced to flee without his beloved pet, a Siberian husky named Princess.

Miraculously, veterinarians located his lost dog weeks after the storm. The dog had been evacuated to Delaware. Due to the work of many volunteers, Colar and his family were among the lucky Katrina survivors who had their pets returned to them. 

“It was so important to me to get my dog back, and I was so thankful,” he says. “Veterinarians saved my dog. I never knew that there were so many animal lovers in the world.” 

Colar’s story illustrates why it’s so important for people to be prepared for natural disasters. This means planning an evacuation, not just for you and your family, but also your pets, livestock and horses. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers a brochure on the subject, Saving the Whole Family, as well as an informative video with helpful instructions to help people evacuate with their pets in a disaster. 

“During disasters it’s not unusual for hundreds of thousands of pets and livestock to be displaced. Many times this is the result of the fact that the owners have not made a thorough evacuation plan,” explains Dr. Heather Case, head of disaster preparation at the AVMA. “That’s why we urge everybody to make disaster plans today that include every member of the family, including those with four legs or wings, fur, scales or feathers.” 

Case explains that in order to evacuate with an animal, pet and livestock owners need to have something in which to carry the animal. With pets, this would be a pet carrier that is large enough for the animal to spend a few days in comfortably. Even if you relocated to an emergency shelter that is willing to accept a pet, the animal will have to spend most of its time in that carrier or cage. For cats, the cage will have to be big enough for a small litter box. 

If you are a livestock or horse owner, you’ll need access to a livestock carrier that can be towed by truck. Many times, farms will form cooperative evacuation networks as a cost effective way of ensuring that everybody’s animals are evacuated. 

The AVMA also recommends that pet and livestock owners put together emergency kits. These kits should include enough food to last a week, any medications the animal requires, written prescriptions and other documentation, a photograph and identification information for the animal and, most importantly, a telephone list of feed suppliers, family members and veterinarians in the area where you expect to end up. 

Proper identification is another important consideration. Consider preparing disaster tags for your pet’s collar. These should include your cell phone number, but also the telephone number for an out-of-town family member or friend, and perhaps the name of a hotel where you expect to evacuate. With this information, rescue responders will have a better chance of locating you if they rescue your pet. 

The best kind of identification is imbedded microchip identification. Even if you put an informative tag on your pets collar or your horse’s halter, if it becomes separated from your animal the results can be disastrous. Microchips are embedded under the skin of an animal between the shoulder blades or on the neck and can be read with a scanner, ensuring the animal is never without ID. 

For more information on this and other issues, visit or for a disaster preparation video. 

Courtesy of ARAcontent