Disaster preparedness for all creatures, large and small

Disaster preparedness for all creatures, large and small

By Rocky Ordoñez, Digital Marketing Coordinator, Jaguar Health

In the late summer of 1992, Hurricane Andrew wailed and hammered away while I hunkered down with my family under a mattress in the hallway of our home. Naturally, my cat, Mísu, knew something was coming and hid before I could even try to protect him from the impending disaster. My mom assured me that me he’d be ok, but that didn’t stop me from agonizing over his well-being.

We were fortunate that our home faired alright. Our garage took the brunt of the damage, but of course, the garage is where Mísu always hid when he was afraid. I was devastated when I couldn’t find him… but a few days later after clearing out the debris, lo and behold, hidden under the remains of my father’s workbench was my soaking wet but otherwise ok Mísu.

Preparing for hurricanes was always a part of summertime life in Miami, Florida, but much of that preparation hullabaloo revolved around the safety of our homes and (human) families and not much regarding what to do with our animals. Now I live in California, where we prepare for fires and earthquakes instead of hurricanes, but the plans are mostly the same.

In the US, September is National Preparedness Month and the message at Ready.gov is “Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.”  To that I’d add that your pets and livestock can’t plan ahead either.

We at Jaguar Health understand that our pets are our family and our livestock are our livelihood, but preparing for disaster can be overwhelming and our animals’ needs during this time can sometimes be overlooked. In hopes of easing some of the anxiety around preparation, I’ve put together some tips and resources to help you ensure all of your creatures, large and small, are ready for disaster before, during and after it strikes.

For our household pets, consider their needs when assembling your own emergency kit. Ready.gov has a solid guide to help you put this together.

Make plans for shelter and transportation options during an evacuation. In 2006, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed, which directs the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop laws or emergency operation plans that consider the rescue, care, shelter, and other needs of those with pets and/or service animals and the animals themselves, so be sure to contact your local and state government about what provisions exist in your area. The Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University has an excellent interactive map of the states with disaster planning laws.

Below is FEMA’s instructional video on preparing your pets for emergency:

View in FEMA Multimedia Library

For equine and livestock owners, the greatest and most costly dangers come from flooding. UC Davis’ Center for Equine Health (CEH) and Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) have put together detailed pamphlets with information on preparing your animals for flooding events and managing them during and after floods. While these guides focus on flooding, much of the information applies to any emergency event.

  • Equine Owners
  • Livestock Owners

In addition, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets has a livestock emergency planning and recovery guide with an added emphasis on dairy farms.

Giving Back

When we’re not the ones experiencing disaster, our hearts go out to those who are. Here are some of the ways you can help animals and farmers affected by disaster.

  • Consider donating to organizations such as the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States, which send teams to disaster sites to help with transport and recovery of animals.
  • Farm Aid has a “Family Farm Disaster Fund” as well as a hotline and website for farmers who are in need of immediate help.
  • Foster a displaced animal. Some shelters might be looking for short-term foster care.
  • Volunteer for and/or donate pet supplies to animal shelters.
  • Train to be a disaster animal response team volunteer.
  • Rescue Bank® is a program of GreaterGood.org that provides grants to the animal rescue community in the form of donated pet food. Freekibble.com also donates pet food to shelters.
Many organizations are providing relief to animals specifically affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, either by fundraising or deploying response teams to affected areas. Here are just some of them that you can consider supporting.
Household Pets:
  • Wings of Rescue handles the flying of animals from affected areas to other parts of the country.
  • Humane Societies of Houston, San Antonio, and Greater Miami
  • The SPCAs of Houston, Florida and the Florida Keys
  • Humane Rescue Alliance
  • Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)
  • Best Friends Animal Society: Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma
Wildlife, Equine, and Livestock:
  • Cattlenetwork.com has a list of resources for temporary sheltering facilities for evacuated livestock and horses.
  • Aiken Equine Rescue and the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue
  • Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition
Additional resources:
  • Ready.gov: Pets and Animals
  • Centers for Disease Control: Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet
  • PetHub: Lost Pet Prevention
  • Center for Pet Safety
  • American Veterinary Medical Association Guidance on Pets and Disasters

All photos are from the FEMA multimedia library. Descriptions and credits, clockwise from the top right:

The W.D. Dairy trucks in dirt every few years to raise the feeding areas of it’s 1700 cows to keep them out of harms way during flooding. During Hurricane Irene the dairy only lost 30 cows to flooding as a result of mitigation efforts such as this. FEMA News Photo / G. Mathieson Photo by Greg Mathieson – Oct 19, 1999 – Location: Broward County, FL

Veterinary services provided by FEMA’s VMAT teams are available at the airport staging area for stray animals and pets of the victims of hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is being evacuated because of flooding caused by hurricane Katrina. Photo by: Liz Roll Photo by Liz Roll – Sep 02, 2005 – Location: New Orleans, LA

After Hurricane Harvey, members of FEMA’s US&R Nebraska Task Force One (NE-TF1) rescue more than just people, but their four legged family members as well. Photo by FEMA News Photo – Aug 30, 2017

Horse rescue near Sacramento, CA after severe flooding. Photo by Andrea Booher – Jan 03, 1997 – Location: Sacramento, CA

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