Recovering from the horrendous 2005 hurricane season and with another potentially devastating season in sight, pet owners have a right to be concerned with the safety of their pets. New legislation, along with a national campaign to proactively prepare for disasters, may provide needed relief and comfort.
It will be hard to ever forget the images of a devastated Gulf Coast. Not only were we inundated with pictures of human misery, but we also were witness to the suffering and plight of the area’s animals. Abandoned pets, forcible separations, and video of dogs and cats desperate to survive have now been etched deeply into our memories.
Although new legislation mandating the accounting for people’s pets in disaster plans has been proposed and enacted, the possibility of loss and injury is still great with the upcoming storm season. To help finance and support relief efforts, individuals within the veterinary industry have started the “Paws to Save the Pets” campaign. Sponsored and supported by veterinary pharmaceutical leaders, the new program plans to help raise $1 million in proactive donations. The anticipated monies will be divided equally between the PetFinder.com Foundation and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) in support of their relief efforts for future disasters.
Sources at PetFinder.com, an Internet-based resource to help shelters and rescue groups with adoptions, say that efforts after the 2005 hurricane season were “much needed”. Counting medical supplies and donations, PetFinder.com estimates that more than $2 million were given to the AMVF and the PetFinder.com Foundation. These donations helped reunite pets with their families as well as treating the medical needs of those pets. Last year’s campaign was known as the Race to Save Pets and involved the participation of more than 3,000 veterinary clinics nationwide. Leaders within the veterinary community estimate that more than 17,000 animals were helped by last year’s efforts.
Wanting to build upon that success, the Paws to Save Pets program was launched in an attempt to prepare for another devastating storm season. Veterinary clinics in 41 states have been asked to participate in a coupon redemption program. Due to state laws, customers in the remaining nine states cannot donate through their veterinary clinic, but can still help by donating directly to either foundation. A listing of states eligible to participate in the coupon redemption can be found at www.pawstosavepets.com.
But beyond new laws and the generosity of veterinary pharmaceutical firms, disaster planning can start with the pet owner. Being prepared for the types of emergencies common in your area can be a life-saver to your pet. National veterinary organizations have created public websites to inform pet owners of the best ways to keep their pets safe during natural disasters. First and foremost, if you are ordered to evacuate your home, you should plan to take your pets with you. Even anticipated short evacuations can turn into week long absences. Other recommendations include maintaining proper identification on your pets, preparing evacuation kits, and obtaining pertinent medical records from your veterinarian.
Returning home after a natural disaster has its own important issues to prepare for as well. If you have taken your pet with you, realize that many usual landmarks and familiar items may be changed or missing from their environment. Surveying your home for broken glass, metal shards, or even contaminated water will help to protect your loved one. Keeping current photographs of your pets are essential if you cannot take your pet, or if your pet runs off after returning home. These pictures can be used to create “lost” posters for distribution. Checking the local shelters and animal control facilities daily is a vital means to being reunited with your pet. Finally, inform your neighbors and your family veterinarian about your missing friend.
We may never know the true number of pets lost or killed during the severe storm season of 2005. But hurricanes are not the only natural disaster to affect our pets. According to the AVMF, almost every section of the country has its own peculiar weather and geography that leads to special disaster events. These natural calamities can be flooding, tornados, or earthquakes. Even wild brush fires can impact many people and a great number of livestock. Man-made disasters such as chemical spills, gas leaks, and building fires may also lead to potential evacuation orders. Being prepared for any eventuality can help to keep your family together.
Following a few common-sense steps as well as planning to take your pet with you in the event of an evacuation may help to prevent physical trauma to your pet as well as emotional upheaval to you. Visit www.MyVNN.com to view a disaster preparedness video and see your veterinarian to discuss emergency plans for your pets. To learn more about donating to help pets during disasters, visit www.pawstosavepets.com.