September is National Preparedness Month, and hurricane season is at its peak. State Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin is reminding Georgians not to forget their pets when making disaster plans.
“The needs of your companion animals should not be an afterthought; they should be an integral part of your plan,” Irvin said.
Here are tips to keep your pets safe and healthy during disasters.
• Pack a pet emergency kit with the following items: current identification, vaccination records and medical information; animal carrier; leashes and harnesses; manual can opener; litterbox and litter; blanket or towel; three-day supply of food, water and medication; first aid kit containing antiseptic wipes, bandages, gauze/tape and antibiotic lotion. Place the small items in a waterproof container and store them all in a safe place.
• Be sure to designate a “safe place” in the home, preferably a window-less room. Make sure that everyone knows that the kits and supplies are in this room.
• Keep plenty of cleaning supplies alongside emergency pet kits. These supplies should include plastic bags, household bleach, all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant and air-tight containers for pet waste.
• Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and ID that includes two phone numbers — yours and one in another area. Maintain current photos of pets to help identify them if they become lost or separated from you. Have a picture of you with your pet to prove the pet belongs to you. Consider having an identification computer chip implanted in your dog or cat by your veterinarian or local shelter. This is an important form of identification for your animal, especially if it is difficult to distinguish from others of the same breed.
• If evacuating your home, take your pet with you or place it in a kennel or veterinarian’s office safe from a storm surge. If you are staying with friends or relations, make sure they know you are bringing your animals so they can prepare or make arrangements. (They may have pets that are not compatible.) Check with motels and hotels to be sure they will allow animals. You may visit www.petswelcome.net for a list of pet-friendly lodgings. Many hotels will allow animals during an emergency. During a declared disaster by the governor, animal-friendly shelters may be opened in the state in partnership with Red Cross shelters, if necessary. Shelters should be considered a last resort. Check with the local Red Cross or emergency management in your area to see if shelters are open and if they will allow animals.
“While preventing a natural disaster is not possible, Georgians can be prepared by having a basic emergency plan and kit in place,” Irvin said. “Don't leave home without your companion animals. If you must evacuate, your pets should evacuate, also. Make preparations for it. A real disaster would be losing a beloved companion because you did not take the precautions necessary to ensure its safety.”