MOUNTAIN AREA — When fire leads to evacuation, you may have only minutes to react. Notified via text or phone call, or even by a knock on the door, at that moment, you’re expected to grab and go. Quick — where are your pets? What do they need? A little advance planning will reduce stress and increase your chance of evacuating successfully, along with your precious pets.
Professional trainer and handler Michael Steen of Graydon Kennels in Coarsegold has plenty of experience preparing for fire, and he’s kindly gathered a table-full of products and a handful of suggestions for pet owners, complete with information that could really help in an emergency. He says the best way to prepare for disaster is to have a plan.
“It’s important to have a go-bag ready for your four legged friends, too,” says Michael. “Any effort in that direction you can place in advance will help you down the road.”
The two most important elements in your pets’ go-bag are a record of inoculations and any medicines they may require on a regular basis. Michael suggests loving pet owners may want to make a copy of the pets’ vaccination records to place in each vehicle they own, keeping that paperwork in the glove box 24/7.
The reason for this paperwork preparation is that an evacuation could possibly last any number of days, and it’s possible your pets may need to be boarded. Legitimate boarding facilities will request and usually require evidence that your dog or cat has been vaccinated according to the rules, in order to keep all pets safe from disease. It doesn’t take a fire to make having your pet vaccination records handy.
“You go on vacation, your car breaks down somewhere, you’re there for a week,” warns Michael. “What do you do for the dog? You look into boarding kennels with your inoculations records in hand, because any kennel worth its salt will not accept your animal without them.” Bed and breakfast style accommodations and hotels that take pets may also require records.
Dogs are usually required to have proof of rabies, distemper/parvo, and Bordetella vaccines. Some of these are two-or-three-shot series vaccinations.
Cats are usually required to have rabies and distemper vaccines, and sometimes, leukemia. At Graydon Kennels, for instance, pets’ vaccinations must be current or in their system for seven days prior to boarding, so it’s smart to be proactive. Check with your vet if you have questions.
Should your pet require medication on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to keep a few days’ supply of meds on hand in your pet go-bag.
It’s critical to remember that, if you are evacuated, there’s a chance that your veterinarian will be evacuated, as well. In that case, they may be difficult or impossible to reach, and the extra medicine will come in handy.
Beyond preparing with proper paperwork and medicine, Michael says that whatever else you put in your pet evacuation kit is entirely up to you — and your pet. Here are some suggestions, and you can modify this list according to personal needs and wants.
In addition to having medicines and vaccination records available, Michael suggests the following: two days worth of dog or cat food, water supply, blanket, calming products (available at your favorite pet store), a couple of toys to help them de-stress, treats, potty bags for dogs or kitty litter for cats, at least one leash for each dog, and a crate for dogs, or carrier for cats. Keep your vet’s phone number handy.
Remember to bring bowls for your pets, and don’t hesitate to bring as much as five gallons of water per pet, or more, as needed. Take along some plastic utensils and paper plates, and make sure you’ve got pop-top cans of pet food to make it easy.
Include a flashlight (it may be dark out when you get the call to evacuate) and hand sanitizer. Disposable cat litter kits are available at some pet supply stores.
For crates and carriers, plan ahead by including your name and phone number on the vessel in advance, using marker and tape.
“Set aside anything else you can think of that will make your pets comfortable,” Michael adds. “When emergency strikes, owners are stressed, and this kind of preparation helps to take the stress off owners and the animals, too. It’s a circumstance that’s completely out of the norm, a panic-driven scenario. You need to catch the cats, tighten the dog collars, and get them in their crates or carriers and in the car and go!”
Keep all your pet go-bag supplies together in the pantry, garage, laundry room, or wherever you can get to them easily, and make securing your animals’ safety part of your evacuation plan.
If you are evacuating large animals, including livestock, know in advance where you will go depending on the circumstance. In Coarsegold, Michael says local property owner Tanner Tweed has agreed that anyone who needs to evacuate large animals, and has nowhere else to go, can come to the rodeo grounds. Email Tanner Tweed now if you have any questions about circumstances that may arise in the future.
“Even if horses are tied to the fence, we can still feed and water them,” Michael explains.
Animals have a knack for getting spooked in the midst of evacuation, say experts, and time is of the essence. You need to get the animals out safely and get the house locked up. It’s also wise to have a house key hidden somewhere at home, or with a neighbor, in case of evacuation when you’re not around to make it happen and you need to rely on others.
The bottom line? In case of evacuation, you need to keep it simple. The more you plan ahead of time, the easier you make a difficult situation, and you could even save some lives along the way.
Looking for a particular product? Contact Steve’s Pet Shop in Oakhurst.
Click on image of checklist below to enlarge for printing.