Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
Just because most disasters strike with little or no warning doesn’t mean we can’t effectively prepare for them. But while a lot of attention has been devoted to disaster planning for people, disaster planning for pets is all too often left out of the conversation, with tragic results. September may be National Preparedness Month, but the truth is we should always be preparing –with both ourselves and our pets in mind—so we can always be ready.
As experts in both disaster preparedness and response, the ASPCA is very aware of this peril. Following Hurricane Sandy, we assisted more than 30,000 pets in New York and New Jersey, distributing nearly 40 tons of pet supplies to impacted pet owners, and sheltering nearly 280 displaced pets. This summer, we released our first-ever ASPCA smartphone app, which includes disaster preparedness and pet survival tips, a tool to store and manage your pet’s vital information, as well as practical tips and a customizable kit for recovering lost pets.
We put a lot of effort into keeping pets safe, but the biggest role belongs to their owners. Yet, according to a national ASPCA poll, more than one-third of cat and dog owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place, and only one-quarter say their animals are micro-chipped. In the Northeast, nearly half of dog owners and cat owners say they don't know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation, while slightly more pet owners in the South – where hurricanes are more common – are aware.
This lack of preparedness can have dire consequences. During Hurricane Katrina, approximately 10,000 animals were evacuated, but less than half were reunited with their families, according to Dr. Dick Green, our senior director of disaster response.
These outcomes aren’t inevitable. Let’s work together to share and take advantage of these valuable suggestions from our veteran rescuers:
Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification
Microchip your pets and register the chip. It may be their ticket home if they become lost
Build a portable pet emergency kit with items such as medical records, water, pet food, medications and pet first aid supplies
Affix a pet rescue sticker to your windows (Get a free one here)
Have current photos of your pets on hand
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation, and never leave them behind
Identify ahead of time where you’ll bring your pets -- whether it’s a relative’s house or a pet-friendly hotel -- because not all emergency facilities accept animals
Remember: any home unsafe for people is also unsafe for pets
Here’s a list of items pet owners should include in their pet preparedness kits:
Pet first-aid kit (ask your vet what to include)
3-7 days' worth of canned or dry food
Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans work well)
Litter or paper toweling
Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
Disposable garbage bags
Pet feeding dishes
Extra collars or harnesses, as well as an extra leash
Photocopies of medical records – or you can store them on the ASPCA App
A waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (make sure to regularly replace expired food and medicines in your kit)
At least a week’s worth of bottled water for you and your pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
A blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)
Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
Especially for cats: A pillowcase as a crate alternative, and large bags for supplies, toys, and scoopable litter
Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner
Even if conditions are safe enough to stay home, you may still need to calm pets scared by lightning and loud noises. Prepare a small, safe space in which they can be comfortable, consider closing curtains and shades, play classical music or white noise to muffle the sounds, and most importantly, keep them inside.
Like most humans, animals don’t respond well to chaos. With hurricane season not ending until November, it’s critical for pet owners to be the true “first responders”— knowing just what to do when their beloved companions need them most.
Tune in tonight at 7:00 P.M. ET for our Google+ Hangout with the ASPCA’s Dick Green and Deborah Press as well as representatives from FEMA, USDA, and the Joplin Humane Society. We’ll discuss the challenges of keeping pets safe during an emergency. The discussion will be moderated by ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee, and includes an appearance by Joy, an ASPCA-rescued Sandy survivor.
If a natural disaster or emergency strikes, will you be prepared? As part of National Preparedness Month, the ASPCA wants to make sure that pet parents are ready for any situation that may arise. That’s why we’re hosting the ASPCA Disaster Preparedness Month Hangout tomorrow, Thursday, September 18 from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M EST.
At this Google Hangout, we’ll help you “master the disaster” with tips and tricks to keep your four-legged family members safe. Topics will include how to prepare for a disaster with pets, what to do if a disaster strikes, how to find pet-friendly evacuation locations, and more!
Our expert panel will be moderated by Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee. Participants include:
Dick Green, Senior Director of Disaster Response, ASPCA
Deborah Press, Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs, ASPCA
Anne McCann, National Emergency Programs Coordinator, USDA
Mark Tinsman, Mass Care Specialist, FEMA
Lysa Boston, Shelter Manager, Joplin Humane Society
Rob Curran, Hurricane Sandy Survivor, and his cat, Joy
To participate in our #NatlPrep hangout, be sure to RSVP today and tune in tomorrow!
September is National Preparedness Month, and we’re busy helping pet parents get ready to face a natural disaster or emergency before it strikes. Here are three things you can do this month to help your pets weather a storm:
1. Download the ASPCA Mobile App. Our new app allows users to store critical pet records required to board pets at evacuation shelters, provides customized steps to search for lost pets, and includes a check-list of actions to take before, during and after a storm.
2. Microchip your pet! Microchipping could be your pet’s best ticket home if he becomes lost. The chip contains owner contact information and can be read by scanner at most animal shelters. Ask your veterinarian about microchipping your pet asap.
3. Attend our Google+ Hangout on September 18 at 7:00 P.M. ET. We’re bringing together experts from the ASPCA, FEMA and the USDA for a Google+ Hangout moderated by Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee. Topics will include how to prepare for a disaster with pets, what to do if a disaster strikes, and how to find pet-friendly evacuation locations. Join us!
UPDATE—August 1, 2014:President Obama signed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act into law today!We thank both Congress and the Obama Administration for ensuring that animals can continue to receive life-saving care from mobile veterinarians.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (VMMA) (H.R. 1528), in step with the U.S. Senate’s approval of an identical bill (S. 1171) earlier this year. The Act enhances and clarifies current law to ensure that veterinarians who treat animals caught in disasters, pulled from puppy mills or animal fighting rings, or otherwise located in remote areas may legally transport, administer, and dispense medicines without fear of violating federal regulations. It also provides veterinarians more flexibility in field operations, regardless of their DEA registration locations.
The VMMA was introduced in the House by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), the only two veterinarians serving in the U.S. Congress, and in the Senate by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Angus King (I-ME). We galvanized support among the animal welfare community, bringing together a large coalition of support along with the veterinarian associations to help this legislation make its way through the process. We are so grateful to see Congress pass this important legislation.
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While natural disasters can strike at any time or place, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response (FIR) Team is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. Over the years, the FIR Team has assisted animals in the aftermath of natural disasters nationwide, including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and earthquakes. This month, FIR Team members are using the expertise they’ve developed throughout their deployments to help lead disaster preparedness drills in communities throughout the country.
Earlier this month, Dr. Dick Green, ASPCA Senior Director of Disaster Response, participated with the Louisiana National Guard in a category three hurricane simulation in New Orleans. During the simulation, coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the ASPCA responded with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) to reports of stranded animals.
The ASPCA also participated in a two-day Defense Support of Civil Authorities Training in San Antonio, Texas, focusing on military response to animals during natural and chemical, biological, or nuclear disasters, and determining how the military could best interface with civilians and their pets in times of disaster. Dr. Green presented on emergency animal sheltering and how the ASPCA can collaborate with military agencies during disasters.
Dr. Green, along with ASPCA FIR Medical Director Dr. Sarah Kirk and Adam Leath, FIR Southeast Regional Director, assisted with a Florida state-wide emergency animal evacuation exercise hosted by the Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida in Ft. Myers. Later this month, Dr. Green will help conduct disaster response trainings in Mendocino, California and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.