It happens so suddenly. As we’re all too familiar with here in the Mountain Area, and as we’ve sadly learned from the Napa and Sonoma County fires, the evacuation call for a wild fire can give you and your pets just minutes to get out. But the need to be prepared doesn’t end with our fire season.
Flooding, earthquakes, gas leaks, other disasters – they’re usually unexpected and give you little or no time to plan once they happen.
Are you prepared to evacuate your pets? Not just the actual dash from your home - but for the days after. Worse, what if you get separated from one of your pets? Cats can bolt away from cat-carriers, dogs often flee, and you want to have the best possible plan in place to be reunited.
There are three main steps to proper pet preparation.
☆ Get a kit of pet emergency supplies. Call it your “go bag” and put together the basics for survival. Food and water (enough for at least three days), medicines and medical records, a first-aid kit, a collar with ID tags and a leash, important documents like adoption papers, vaccination and medical records. Put any paperwork in a plastic, water-proof bag. Prepare a crate or carrier. If you have room, include familiar items for your pet, like toys, treats and bedding. These can help reduce stress for your pet.
☆ Make a plan for what you will do in an emergency. Pre-plan your evacuation. If you plan to head to friends and family, confirm they will take your pets, or pre-locate a boarding facility nearby. Develop a buddy system with your neighbors. If you aren’t home, are they willing and able to go get your pets and their supplies? Designate a location where you will meet. Get “Pet Inside” stickers for your home that will list the number and types of pets inside. If you have time, write “Pets evacuated” on the sticker before you leave.
☆ Be prepared for any emergency. Emergency personnel can tell you that evacuations usually result in some families being separated from their pets. They might end up with a sympathetic person miles away, at a local emergency shelter or with animal control. Finding and claiming your furry family member can be so much quicker if your pet is microchipped. The EMC SPCA offers microchipping, available at Hoof ‘n Paw, for $25 flat/no annual fee that will last the life of your pet. It’s also important to have a photo of you with your pet, which can help prove ownership.
Colette Goga, owner of Oakhurst Feed and the dog-friendly Yosemite Wine Tails, has been a volunteer with the Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) for over three years. She’s been called out to staff the CCADT’s emergency animal shelters multiple times in our Mountain Area.
Speaking from experience, Goga said the two most important items evacuated pet owners need to bring are prescription food and medications. The emergency animal shelters do have a supply of food, crates, feeding bowls and some other items, but if your animal has specific medical needs or is on a special diet, make absolutely sure those are in your “go bag.”
It would be hard to find people more prepared for an emergency evacuation with their pets than Brian and Lena Cutler, who have a vacation home at Bass Lake. They have fully-stocked “go bags” for each of their two dogs, Pickles and Olives, as well as laminated sheets with photos and emergency contact information.
It took some time and planning for the Cutlers to put everything together, but they know it might very well end up saving them - and Pickles and Olives - days of heartache.
The bottom line: Get ready now. Don’t wait - because when the time comes, you won’t have time.
The EMCSPCA can always use your help. Go online at www.emcspca.org for a list of volunteer opportunities. You’re always welcome to attend the volunteer meetings at 5:30 p.m., the second Tuesday of each month at the Cat’s Meow. There is no meeting in December.