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January 11, 2012

How to Keep Your Pets Safe When Severe Winter Weather Hits

Where to go and what to do if blizzards and power outages affect you

dog snow nose

istockphoto

If you are a pet owner who lives in an area that experiences blizards, it's a good idea to make plans or preparations if the weather causes power outages in your community.

Where to stay

Because evacuation shelters generally don't accept pets (except for service animals), you must plan ahead to make certain your family and pets will have a safe place to stay.

Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species. Inquire if the "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency. Make a list of animal-friendly places and keep it handy. Call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.

You can find a list of pet-friendly hotels at:

Bringfido.com
Dogfriendly.com
Doginmysuitcase.com
Pet-friendly-hotels.net
Pets-allowed-hotels.com
Petswelcome.com
Tripswithpets.com

If you can't find a hotel or shelter

Check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.

Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies; include 24-hour telephone numbers. Ask your local animal shelter if it provides foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. This should be your last resort, as shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched to their limits during an emergency.

Disaster supply checklist

Every member of your family should know what he or she needs to take when you evacuate. You also need to prepare supplies for your pet. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment's notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.

In your pet disaster kit, you should include:

  • Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
  • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit. A pet first aid book is also good to include.
  • Cat litter box, litter, garbage bags to collect all pets' waste, and litter scoop.
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can't escape. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time while you are away from home. Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets. These may require blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, and other special items.
  • Current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated and to prove that they are yours.
  • Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.
  • Information about your pets' feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.
  • Your pet should be wearing up-to-date identification at all times. This includes adding your current cell phone number to your pet's tag. It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area—if your pet is lost, you'll want to provide a number on the tag that will be answered even if you're out of your home.

Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach.

When you leave, take your pets

The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed.

If you leave, even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your animals. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets.

If you stay home

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Be sure to follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

  • Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.
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