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.
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!
If your dog uses his time alone in the house to bark endlessly, pee on the carpet, or tear up the sofa—and those behaviors are accompanied by depression or stress—your pooch may be suffering from separation anxiety, a very common behavior problem.
Overcoming disorders like separation anxiety takes time, patience and consistency, but it can be done! Just take the following steps, and you’re already on your way.
Make sure the problem is separation anxiety. The first step in tackling behavior issues is to rule out any underlying medical problems that might be causing your pet’s misbehavior. Next, rule out other behavior problems. For example, consider whether your dog’s inappropriate elimination is due to incomplete housetraining.
Take action. So you’re sure the problem is separation anxiety? Try these strategies to address the issue:
Keep all greetings relaxed. When leaving, give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when arriving home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed.
Give your dog a workout. Giving your dog lots of mental and physical stimulation goes a long way toward quelling behavior problems—especially those involving anxiety. Exercise can enrich your dog’s life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal behavior. And once she’s all tuckered out, your pal won’t have much energy left to get into trouble.
Reward your pooch! Teach your dog to associate your departure with a reward, like a delicious stuffed Kong or other food-dispensing toy. This positive association can help resolve the problem, as well as distract your dog for the first few minutes you’re gone!
A few weeks ago, we shared an Urgent Alert about the dangers of leaving dogs in parked cars on hot days. What we didn’t know at the time, though, was just how urgent the situation truly is.
According to a new poll conducted by the ASPCA, an overwhelming majority of adults—93 percent—who have never encountered a dog in a car on a hot day said they would do something to help, but of those adults who actually faced such a situation, only 63 percent took action.
“Taking decisive action when you see a dog left in a hot car is critical during these warm months,” said Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “There is a startling gap between those who state they would act and those who actually did something when faced with the reality of a dog at risk.”
The nationwide telephone survey also revealed the following findings:
51 percent of those who saw or heard a dog in a hot car made attempts to look for the owner, making it the most common action taken
24 percent said they made attempts to rescue the dog themselves and 23 percent called the police
Women were much more likely than men to have taken action (75 percent versus 58 percent) after seeing a dog in a hot car
When an animal is in danger of overheating, your actions can literally mean the difference between life and death. We hope that you will make a commitment to act whenever you encounter a dog alone in a hot car—and you can start by taking our pledge today.
As summer heats up, it’s tempting to bring your pet with you on car rides around town. Sadly, many people believe that cracking a window is enough to keep their dogs cool in the car while they make a quick pit stop—but they couldn’t be more wrong. When it’s 80 degrees outside, your car will be a staggering 114 degrees in less than 30 minutes.
Worse still, dog can’t cool themselves down as easily as people, and once they overheat, they can suffer extensive organ damage or die. That’s why leaving an animal alone in a car is more than just a bad idea, it’s a form of animal cruelty. And since the ASPCA can’t be everywhere at all times, we need YOU to be our eyes and ears on the ground.
To help save animals from dying in hot cars, take the following actions:
Immediately call animal control or 911 if you see an animal trapped in a hot car. Local law officials have the ability to enter the vehicle and rescue the pet.
Do not leave until help has arrived.
Notify the managers of nearby businesses so they can make an urgent announcement.
We are working hard to spread awareness about the dangers of hot cars, but all too often, the difference between life and death comes down to the actions of individuals like you. We hope you will join our cause by keeping an eye out for dogs in distress, and by making a donation today. Together, we can prevent more tragedies and make this summer our safest season yet.