HomeLifeThe emergency preparations you need to do if you're a pet owner

The emergency preparations you need to do if you’re a pet owner

As a responsible pet owner, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your furry, feathered, or scaled friends is paramount, especially during emergencies. From bushfires to floods and cyclones, Australia is no stranger to natural disasters that can pose significant risks to both humans and animals. The safety of your pets in an emergency can depend on the preparations you make. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a solid plan in place. Here are the essential emergency tips every pet owner needs to know.

Creating a pet emergency plan

Your pets are part of the family, and just like any family member, they need to be included in your emergency survival plan. Here’s how to ensure they’re not left behind when every second counts.

1. Identify a safe place

Determine where you can take your pets if you need to evacuate. This could be a pet-friendly hotel, a relative’s home outside the danger zone, or a specialised animal shelter. Remember, not all evacuation centres accept pets, so having a pre-arranged safe spot is vital.

2. Practice makes perfect 

Train your pets to be comfortable in a carrier or crate, as this will be their safe space during transportation. Regular car trips can also help them become accustomed to travel, reducing stress during an actual emergency.

3. Keep records handy

Ensure all your pets’ vaccinations are current, and store these records, along with registration certificates and microchip information, in a waterproof container. These documents are essential for boarding facilities and may be required at shelters.

4. Visible identification 

Microchipping is a must, but also make sure your pets wear collars with ID tags that include their name and your contact number. This simple step can make reunions much quicker if you get separated.

5. Prepare a pet emergency kit 

Just like humans, pets have specific needs that must be met, even in an emergency. Your kit should include food, water, medications, veterinary records, a first aid kit, and comfort items such as toys and bedding.

6. Rehearse your plan

Run through your evacuation plan to identify any hiccups and ensure everyone in the household knows their role. This will help keep things calm and orderly during an actual emergency.

Activating your pet emergency plan

When you’re alerted to an impending emergency, it’s time to put your plan into action. It’s much better to evacuate early with your pets than to wait until the last minute and risk being unable to get them out. If an evacuation order seems likely, consider moving pets to their designated safe location before it becomes mandatory.

Contain small pets: keep them in a secure area within your home so you can quickly grab them if you need to leave in a hurry.

Confirm arrangements: call your pre-identified safe place to ensure they can take your pets or make alternative arrangements if necessary.

Pack the kit: load your pet emergency kit into your vehicle, along with any carriers or crates.

Special needs: consider the unique requirements of different pets, such as birds, reptiles, or small mammals, and adjust your plan accordingly.

If you must leave pets behind

It’s a situation no pet owner wants to face, but if you absolutely cannot evacuate with your pets, take these steps:

Do not tether: pets need the ability to move freely to find shelter and safety.

Leave ample food and water: provide a week’s supply in multiple spill-proof containers. Use auto-feeders for birds and other small pets.

Identification: ensure pets have a collar with an ID tag and a microchip.

Leave information: put a large sign in your front window or on your door with the number and types of pets inside, their names, your phone number, and a photo if possible. This helps rescuers know to look for your pets.

Safe spaces: for floods, provide access to higher places such as a bench, vanity unit or shelf where adequate food and water should be left.

What to do with outside pets

If your pets are outdoors during various emergencies, it’s essential to take specific precautions.

  1. Make sure they have access to plenty of water from a source that doesn’t rely on electricity or above-ground pipes.
  2. During a bushfire, relocate pets to a paddock that’s been closely grazed or ploughed, preferably near the homestead. Ensure there’s drinking water, sturdy fencing, and ideally, some shade. For poultry, consider placing them in a temporary pen.
  3. In the event of a flood, move pets to higher ground where they have access to natural feed. You may need to provide additional feed for animals stranded for extended periods.
  4. During severe storms or cyclones, provide pets with solid cover, such as a sturdy barn, shed, or covered pen.
  5. Avoid confining horses in stables or small fenced yards during storms. Sand arenas or grazed-down paddocks are safer options.
  6. Consider using high-visibility pet coats or horse rugs with your mobile phone number on to aid in locating lost pets.
  7. Refrain from using synthetic blankets on horses.
  8. Ensure there’s a minimum of five days’ supply of hay or access to pasture for your animals.

Stay informed

Knowledge is power, especially during an emergency. Stay updated through local news, radio, and official online sources for your state or territory. These resources can provide critical information on when to evacuate and where to go.

Resources for preparation

The RSPCA has prepared interactive PDFs to help you prepare your emergency plan for your animals.

Emergency Animal Authorisation Form

Emergency Animal Preparedness Plan

There are also Animals Inside Cards available for you to print and fill out and put on your doors/windows to alert first responders that you have animal(s) in your home needing assistance in case of emergency.

Have you ever had to evacuate with your pets, or do you have additional tips for emergency preparedness? Share your stories and advice in the comments section below to help fellow pet owners prepare for the unexpected.

Also read: Pets that live the longest, so you can minimise sad farewells

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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