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Include your pets in emergency preparedness plan

An emergency will occur with absolutely no warning. Emergencies range from weather related events such as a tornado or snow/ice storm, to wildfires or earthquakes.

No matter what the situation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging everyone to be prepared. To help inform the public on how to get prepared, September has been designated National Preparedness Month.

In the event of an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for a few days. This means having your own supply of food, water and other supplies. Local officials and emergency relief workers will be on the scene quickly, but they cannot get to everyone immediately. That is why it is important to be prepared.

Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension veterinarian, said your pets are depending on you to be prepared in any emergency situation.

"The time to make a plan is before an emergency arises," MacAllister said. "Oklahoma and other parts of the country have seen many wildfires over the past few weeks. This can be a situation where homeowners need to evacuate quickly, so it's important to be prepared. When making an emergency preparedness plan, make sure you include all of your pets. Pets that are left behind in disaster situations can be injured or lost, so it is important to plan ahead."

Items to have on hand and assembled in an emergency preparedness kit include pet food, water, a photo of the animal and a strong leash and muzzle. An emergency preparedness kit could be a backpack or plastic container that is easily transported. It also is a good idea to have a record of current vaccinations and medical history with the contact information of the pet's veterinarian in the kit. Make sure you have proper identification on your pet, such as a collar with ID tags that include the owner's name and phone number. Microchip identification is highly recommended to ensure your pet is properly identified in case the animal is separated from its owner.

"In the event that you have to evacuate your home, be sure you have identified a safe place to go, and remember that Red Cross disaster shelters can't accept pets. Check around in your area at different shelters and inquire about pet acceptance," she said. "If a shelter isn't available and you need to stay in a hotel for a few days, keep a list handy of the nearby hotels that will allow pets. Other emergency shelter options for pets include a boarding facility or the home of friends or family."

MacAllister said pets can react to changes in their environment and stressful situations by trying to run away or hide. In an effort to get away, they may bite or scratch their owners or the person trying to help them. Always keep pets under control with a leash or in a carrier while you are evacuating and at your safe place, especially if it is a public location.

It is not just dogs and cats that need to have some type of identification and records in the event of an emergency. Birds, small mammals and reptiles should have photos and medical records in an emergency preparedness kit. Birds that are being evacuated should be carried in a covered cage to minimize stress. This will also help keep the birds warm.

"Pets are part of the family and rely on their owners to take care of them and keep them safe," MacAllister said. "Make sure your family emergency plan includes all of your pets."

Date: 9-24-2012



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