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Planning ahead to protect pets in emergency situations




By Michele F. Mihaljevich

Indiana Correspondent


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Livestock producers and pet owners should think about protecting their animals in severe weather before an emergency occurs, an Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) official said.

As spring approaches, it’s a good time for producers to plan for stormy weather, noted Denise Derrer, BOAH public information director.

“For owners of confinement operations, especially poultry and hogs, they need to think about the importance of keeping the electricity going,” she explained. “If they lose power, they lose the ventilation system. They should be sure to have a generator appropriately sized for the facility. A generator would also be important during a snowstorm or during the summer when electricity could be impacted by excessive use in their area. They need to provide ample water and ventilation.”

Some small-sized or hobby farms may have high value animals for breeding stock or genetics. In a flood, they may only be able to transport a few animals to safety. “If they can only move two, they should plan for which two they’re going to take,” Derrer said. “They should also prepare ‘Go Kits,’ which would include such things as feed, hay and water buckets.”

Producers might have advance notice of potential flooding, she said. If possible, owners should move animals indoors or closer to the barn area. “If you don’t get the animals brought in, they could be cut off in a flood,” Derrer pointed out. “Keep aware of what’s going on. If you have time, you might be able to move some animals to another farm. Work with neighbors in the area to know who you can call if you need to. It’s not pretty to think about, but producers should also have a disposal plan if they lose animals.”

Pet owners should also prepare Go Kits for their animals, she said. Such a kit should include food (including a manual can opener for canned items), water, bowls, treats, toys, leash, a current photo, veterinary records and medications. Cat kits should also have litter, a scoop and foil pan. The kits should contain enough supplies to last three-five days.

“You can use those cloth shopping bags from the store,” Derrer said. “If you need to leave in a hurry, grab the kit, grab your pet and go.”

Indiana has four million pet owners, she noted. “We know from past disasters, not just in Indiana, when people don’t have a plan for the pets they’re attached to, they won’t leave their homes because they feel guilty. That puts them in danger and possibly puts first responders in danger. Or, owners leave quickly and leave their pets chained in the backyard. They get into trouble trying to return home to retrieve a pet and put themselves or first responders in danger.”

Owners should have a cage or carrier for each animal to aid in quick evacuation. Pets should have identification through a collar with a tag or a microchip.

Public shelters opened during a disaster don’t allow pets unless they’re registered service animals, Derrer said. Emotional support animals aren’t considered registered service animals, she added.

“We hope people are making the effort to plan,” Derrer said. “People can’t make assumptions they can take their pets to a shelter or to a hotel. Some hotels that normally don’t allow pets might change that policy during an emergency, but you should check with them before an emergency occurs.”

Owners who can’t safely move a pet should consider temporarily containing the animal in a windowless room – such as a bathroom – with food, she said. A tub or toilet could provide water.