Pet safety during emergency weather

(c)iStockphoto.com/WilleeCole
(c)iStockphoto.com/WilleeCole

When a disaster or emergency occurs and you have to leave your home, always take your pets with you. People think they will be able to return shortly to care for their animals, but too often the situation worsens and people cannot make it back to rescue their pets.

Do not put your pets’ lives, your life or other rescuers’ lives at risk. Think ahead. Have a plan in place. Where can you and your pet go for safety? A friend or family members’ home? A pet-friendly hotel?

If you go to a public emergency shelter, your pets may not be allowed inside. (Most emergency shelters for people still don’t allow animals, but in Massachusetts and other states, disaster preparedness plans now contain provisions for temporary animal shelters, either at the same location as the human shelters or nearby.)

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Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.

Disaster plans for your pets borrow from best practices for people, so be sure you also make a disaster kit and stay informed and ready. Your kit should include three days of food, water, and sanitation and medical essentials for your pets, as well as the other members of your family. Tips on what to include in your kit.

It’s also important for rescuers and other emergency personnel to be able to ID your animal in case you get separated from it or your pet gets lost. A microchip is the best way to ensure you and your animal are reunited. You also should be sure your pet has a collar with an ID tags and that you have a current picture of you with your pet to help document ownership and help with identification should you two end up apart.

To learn more on how you can be prepared or how to volunteer with the State of Massachusetts Animal Response Team (SMART), visit www.smartma.org.