When disaster strikes, household pets’ lives are among the most vulnerable. Evacuating animals during any type of emergency — whether a hurricane, wildfire or earthquake — adds a layer of stress in a turbulent situation. However, experts with animal-advocacy organizations say that taking care of our furry, purry, feathered and scaly housemates is an imperative lifesaving effort that can be conducted smoothly with advance planning.
Every attempt should be made not to leave animals behind, the advocates say. You might not be able to return home for longer than you anticipate, and abandoning pets can have “devastating consequences,” said Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States.
“If you’re leaving for any reason, don’t think that it’s safe to leave them behind,” Ms. Donithan said.
Experts emphasized that successfully evacuating with your pets depends on actions you can take well before the threat of an emergency is imminent.
“Every story is going to be unique,” said Dr. Lori Teller, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Planning ahead definitely makes the whole ordeal a lot easier.”
Prepare to leave.
Ensure your pets are wearing collars with clear, current identification and your contact information. A GPS collar could also come in handy, especially if you have a fearful pet that is prone to making escape attempts in stressful situations, said Jason Cohen, a dog trainer based in New York City.
You’ll need a sturdy leash and a pet carrier or crate labeled with your contact information. Consider getting a backup attachment for your pet’s collar, such as a metal carabiner or double-clip accessory, for added security if a collar accidentally comes off.
Your pets might not be accustomed to traveling, so building their familiarity with different modes of transportation could help. Know the various evacuation routes and practice them in advance.
“If you know where you are going to go, if you know your routes, if you have all the supplies you need, that’s the best-case scenario,” Ms. Donithan said.
Assemble a disaster kit for your pet.