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Preparing for an emergency evacuation PDF Print E-mail

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column
By: Gail T. Fisher

In the middle of all the news items about Hurricane Rita, I heard an uplifting bit of news – that the rescue transporters in Texas were letting people bring their pets. That makes all the difference in people being willing to vacate their homes. I cannot imagine walking away and leaving a pet to a near-certain, and terrifying death.

What would you do if someone knocked on your door and told you you had five minutes to vacate? Imagine the worst case scenario, and plan accordingly.

One of our trainers who has multiple dogs, two of whom don’t get along and will fight said, “We need to have muzzles.” If they had to walk away from their home, they’d be able to keep the dogs from fighting en route to wherever they found safe haven.

Noah’s Wish website ( has helpful information for planning ahead. The more prior planning you do, the easier for everyone. Because human shelters often cannot take pets, one of the most important prior considerations is where you might safely leave them if you have to evacuate. Here are the steps they recommend:

1) Take care of you. Visit the Red Cross website to create a disaster plan for humans. Do not put your life at risk for the life of your pet.

2) Create an Evacuation Plan for your pets. Don’t wait for the last minute to evacuate. Don’t leave pets behind, even if you’re not sure where to take them. Have a safe and secure way to transport them. They’ll likely be frightened, and terrified animals try to escape. Secure confinement minimizes the chances of their getting lost.

3) If you can’t take your pets with you to a human evacuation shelter, have a plan where you can take them. Some possible locations for dogs (and cats) include a friend or family member outside the affected area, boarding kennels, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, pet supply stores, pet daycare centers, grooming shops, foster care networks, dog/cat club members, just to name a few. Ask the owner or manager the facility if they have a plan to care for extra animals during a disaster. If not, ask them to consider coming up with a plan.
At All Dogs Gym, we have been talking about this for the past few weeks, and we’re coming up with all sorts of ideas that we’ll be putting in an upcoming newsletter. To receive a copy of the newsletter, visit our newsletter page to be put on our newsletter mailing list.

4) Have a back-up evacuation plan. What if you’re not home when a disaster strikes, you need a back-up plan for your pets. Are you close enough to get there quickly? If not, talk with a local dogwalker or a neighbor you can trust – especially those with pets, so you can agree to help one another. Provide information about your pets – names and any behavior issues; where they can find leashes, crates, and the like. Have them spend time getting to know your dog and for your dog to be comfortable with them. Exchange contact information, and an emergency contact person so you can find each other. Discuss what to do if your pets can’t be evacuated – the most likely alternative being to turn them loose.

As much as we don’t want to think this could happen to us, the truth is, it can. Being prepared in advance could mean the difference between life and death. Next week I’ll write about supplies and preparing a disaster supply kit for your dog.

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2007. All rights reserved.
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