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Power outages, tornadoes, fires and flash floods can happen at any given time without warning. Our pets are members of our family, and we want to be sure to protect them should disaster strike. It’s important for pet owners to have a plan of action in any emergency. 

When you first get a pet, you want to be sure to equip them with tags. An up-to-date collar and ID tag are critical should something occur, whether your pet simply gets out of the house or in case of emergency. In addition to tags, you can also get your pet microchipped. This is a simple procedure performed by a certified veterinarian that, according to the ASPCA, has proven to be the most reliable system for the recovery of lost companion animals. The microchips contain all of your pet’s data, including your address and contact information.

Have a leash or carrier near the exit of your home. If you’re ever in a situation where you have to leave quickly, these items will come in handy. Also consider storing an emergency kit near the exit. This can include at least three days of food and water, bowls, medications, an extra leash, a few toys and a blanket, as well as disposable litter trays and litter, if you have a cat. A first aid kit would be another smart addition to this kit. Be sure to label it so anyone in the family can see it and grab it in a hurry. 

Make a plan for where your pet will stay during an evacuation or other emergency. According to the CDC, many disaster evacuation centers, such as Red Cross, do not accept pets or other animals. If you cannot take your pet with you, make sure to have a trusted friend, neighbor or shelter prepared for them to stay with. You can also try contacting your veterinarian or local animal hospitals for shelter, especially for a number of days if you cannot return home right away. No matter where you end up taking your pet, don’t forget to bring along their emergency kit, as well as any other extra food or toys. 

In the case that you are not home during an emergency or evacuation, be sure to have a back up plan for the safety of your pets. Make arrangements with neighbors or close friends, preferably someone who your pets are comfortable with, to take your pets and meet with you at another location. Ensure that whomever you choose has a key to your house and knows the location of the pet emergency kit. 

Some emergencies, such as a blizzard or power outage, can leave you and your pets stuck at home. If this is the case, try to keep your pets contained to one room, preferably with you or other family members. If the weather is very severe, consider a room with fewer windows, to decrease the chance for harm. Remove any chemicals or plants that can be harmful to your animals. For cats and smaller pets, block off any spots they can hide or get stuck, such as under heavy furniture or desks. 

Lastly, no matter the situation, always have a first aid kit ready to go. Not all emergencies are weather- or nature-related. Just like with humans, accidents happen and injuries can occur. Though a veterinarian would be the automatic first thought, if for some reason you couldn’t make it, a first aid kit may be helpful. Maybe your dog slipped on an icy porch and broke a nail, or a cat tried to land a jump and ended up with a cut. A first aid kit can keep your pets from getting infections or bleeding and causing a mess. Make sure that if your pets are on any type of medication, it is kept in the first aid kit.  

After a disaster, emergency or evacuation, your pet will likely be a bit stressed and overwhelmed. Give them time to relax and re-acclimate to their normal routines. It is important to prepare your home and family for anything, including emergencies. For further advice and information about protecting your pets and keeping them safe, talk to your vet.