Record-breaking rainfall, flooding, power outages, and road closures are just a few of the weather-related tribulations our communities have experienced in the past year (and some the past month!). Each time we read the news, a different natural disaster affects one or more parts of the country. And, as you may have learned from Scouts or a first aid course, being prepared is your best line of defense in an emergency. Yet, fewer than half of U.S. households have a disaster response plan, and fewer still have one that includes pets.

Today, Felton Veterinary Hospital includes some tips and guidance for caring for your pets should you lose power or need to evacuate. 

Disaster Planning 101

In Santa Cruz County, we are no strangers to disaster response planning. However, creating an effective plan takes time and energy and can be overwhelming. So, try tackling one thing at a time to stay on track and calm. 

Power outages.  Power outages are becoming more common for various reasons all over the nation. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict how long a power outage will last, so be prepared with a two-week supply of your pet’s food and enough bottled water. Also, ensure you have an extra supply of your pet’s prescription medication if refills aren’t an option during an emergency. You’ll also want to keep a printed contact list of emergency phone numbers for your pet in case cell phones aren’t working. Your list can include the Animal Poison Control Hotline and Pacific Santa Cruz Emergency Clinic’s numbers. Emergency hospitals often remain open during natural disasters and continue serving the community. Call us anytime if you have questions or concerns about your pet. 

Evacuation planning.  When you receive an evacuation order, it is impossible to know when you’ll be able to return, as circumstances often change during a disaster. Since you may not be allowed (or able) to return to your home as soon as you would wish, always plan to take your pets with you. In this last flooding event, the City of Santa Cruz set up an emergency shelter at the Civic Auditorium, and pets on leashes or carriers were welcome. However, shelters do not always accept pets, so having a pet-friendly backup place is crucial. Create a list of friends, family, pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, and boarding facilities in your immediate area and farther away in case of a significant event. If you believe evacuation is likely, call ahead to reserve boarding and hotels, as they may fill quickly.

Create a Pet Emergency Kit

Whatever the emergency, having all your pet’s necessities gathered ahead of time in an organized location will make everyone’s life easier. Create a pet emergency kit and keep it in an easily accessible spot. A plastic tote often works well to keep the following items in a transportable “go bag:”

  • An extra collar or harness and leash with ID tags attached
  • A soft-sided pet carrier or crate
  • Your pet’s medications
  • A two-week supply of food and water (rotate perishables every two weeks)
  • Food and water bowls, can opener, and wet food lids
  • A litter box, scoop, a two-week supply of litter, and pet waste bags
  • A pet first aid kit
  • Towels and blankets
  • A special toy, treats, pet bed, and comfort items for your pet
  • Veterinary records and a current photo of your pet

The Importance of Pet Identification

Unfortunately, in the chaos of a natural disaster and the subsequent response, pets often escape and become lost. Therefore, we recommend keeping your pet’s ID tags and microchip contact information current with several contact numbers. If your pet becomes lost, a microchip can significantly increase the chances that you and your pet will be reunited since a microchip can never be damaged, removed, or lost, as a collar and tags sometimes are. 

The ASPCA provides a free pet safety pack, which includes pet rescue window and door decals to alert first responders that your pets may be inside your home and need rescuing. 

Our goal at Felton Veterinary Hospital is to be there for our community of pets and people to help pet families stay safe and healthy. We welcome questions about creating a pet safety plan, so call us if you have concerns about your pet. We are here to help!