Our hearts break for the people of Oklahoma this week. While it has been awful to see the devastation to families and homes, there have also been joyful moments of reuniting people with their pets. To see the compassion from volunteers and rescue workers brings hope to those of us watching the tragedy from a distance.
After Hurricane Katrina, the importance of emergency planning for pets became very clear. Hurricane victims risked their own lives refusing to leave their homes without their pets. Since then, emergency policies and planning has changed drastically to include preparedness for pets. The PETS Act, passed by congress in 2006, gave FEMA and other state and local governments the ability and resources to do animal emergency planning. As a result of the PETS Act, important programs like Basic Animal Rescue Training (BART) were funded to reach out to first responders like fire fighters, paramedics and police departments for training and equipment needed for basic animal emergency rescue. BART is a non-profit organization that started right here in Minnesota by a local veterinarian. The program has now grown nationwide and just this March, they were asked to start training Oklahoma first responders for emergencies.
Training emergency responders is just one piece of the planning that helps save pets and their owners during disaster situations. The most important piece of preparedness is being ready as a pet owner. Do you have a plan for your family, including your pets, when a disaster hits? Being prepared can make all the difference in the world.
What can you do to make sure you are prepared for an emergency?
- Have a supply of food and water available for your pet. It is a good idea to store the supplies next to your family’s emergency preparedness kit.
- Keep a collar, leash and pet carrier in an easily accessible place in case of evacuation. Even pets who are normally calm can panic and run or bite in an emergency situation.
- If your pet needs daily medication, keep a small supply in your emergency kit.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped. This permanent identification may be the only way your pet is reunited with you. It is a good idea to keep a collar with an ID tag on too, but don’t rely on this as the only form of identification.
- Keep a picture of you with your pet for easy identification.
- Discuss your emergency plan with your family members in advance. Designate a meeting place before a disaster occurs.
- Keep your veterinarian’s contact information, including an emergency clinic phone number on hand. In an emergency, internet service may not be available. The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a downloadable emergency contact card here: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/disaster/Pages/Emergency-contact-cards.aspx
Hopefully, we will never need to use our emergency plans, but having a plan greatly increases the chances of a happy outcome for both you and your pet.
For more information or to donate to BART, visit their website at: http://basicanimalrescuetraining.org/.
Additional disaster preparedness information is available from the AVMA at: https://www.avma.org/professionaldevelopment/trainingandservice/vmat/pages/emergency-preparedness-and-response-resources.aspx.
If you live in the Plymouth or Wayzata area and have questions about microchipping or need more information on disaster preparedness, please contact Northwest Animal Hospital at 763-475-2448.