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Disaster preparedness for your pets

The trinidad Guardian / T&T is generally described as blessed due to our location on the southern fringe of the hurricane belt. Nonetheless, this year in particular, we have had cause to be alarmed by the intensity and frequency of tropical storms developing into hurricanes capable of completely destroying entire islands.

Our recent brush with Brett and widespread flooding last week due to persistent rainfall was an eye-opener to the fact that we are underprepared and our infrastructure sorely inadequate to cope with a natural disaster. Even 30 minutes of heavy rain these days results in major parts of the country coming to a complete standstill as trees blow down, landslips block roadways, roads turn into rivers, traffic builds up, electrical power gets cut, and we all end up literally spinning top in mud.

June 1 to November 30 is traditionally the period known as the hurricane season. This is the time for you to be extra vigilant about safety for your family, including your pets. In addition to preparing yourself in case of disaster, you need to plan ahead for your pets to keep them out of danger.

Familiarise yourself with any type of disaster than can affect the area in which you live. Are you on the plains where you will likely suffer from floods; is your house perched on the side of a hill prone to landslips; are you on the coast where storm surge is a possibility? Be prepared for the disruption of essential services such as electricity, telephones, fresh water supplies and local food sources for extended periods of time. Prepare a disaster plan with your veterinarian, which includes identifying your animals, assembling an animal evacuation kit and developing an evacuation plan for all of your animals.

Identification can be in the form of a collar tag, a microchip or a waterproof pouch attached to your pet’s neck collar. Reptiles can be marked with a permanent felt-tip marker and birds should have leg bands.

Identification should provide your name, home address, telephone number and your veterinarian’s name, location and telephone number.

An animal evacuation kid should include the following:

? Two-week supply of food (dry and canned)

? Two-week supply of water in plastic gallon jugs with secure lids

? Batteries (flashlight, radio)

? Cage/carrier (one for each animal, labelled with your contact information)

? Can opener (manual)

? Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership

? Emergency contact list

? Familiar items to make pets feel comfortable (favourite toys, treats, blankets)

? First aid kit

? Flashlight

? Instructions for feeding: record the diet for each individual animal, including what not to feed in case of allergies.

? Medications: list each animal separately, including dose and frequency for each medication.

? Leash and collar or harness (for each animal)

? Litter, litter pan, litter scoop for cats

? Muzzles (dog or cat)

? Newspaper (bedding, litter)

? No-spill food and water dishes, dishwashing liquid and sanitiser

? Paper towels

? Radio (battery operated)

? Spoon (for canned food)

? Trash bags

It is important to familiarise your animals with evacuation procedures beforehand. An evacuation plan may take the following format:

? Evacuate your family, including your animals, as early as possible if necessary. By leaving early, you will decrease the chance of becoming victims of the disaster.

? Locate and prearrange an evacuation site for your family and animals outside your immediate area. Ideally, this will be a friend/relative that is willing to let your family and animals stay in the event of a disaster.

Other possible animal housing options include veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, and animal shelters.

? Make sure all animals have some form of identification securely fastened to them or their cage.

? Place all small pets, including cats and small dogs, inside individual transportable carriers. When stressed, animals that normally get along may become aggressive towards each other.

? Secure leashes on all large dogs.

? Load your larger animal cages/carriers into your vehicle. These will serve as temporary housing for your animals if needed.

? Load the animal evacuation kit and supplies into your vehicle.

? Call your prearranged animal evacuation site to confirm availability of space.

In case you are not at home

? Pre-place stickers on front and back house doors to notify neighbours, fire fighters, police and other rescue personnel that there are animals are on your property and where to find your evacuation supplies.

? Provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type and location of your animals, noting favourite hiding spots, in order to save precious rescue time.

? Designate a willing neighbour to tend to your animals in the event that a disaster occurs when you are not at home. This person should have a key to your home, be familiar with your animals, know your evacuation procedures and know where your evacuation supplies are kept

? You should also have a pre-signed veterinary medical treatment authorisation in your evacuation kit-this will aid your veterinarian if your animal must be treated during your absence.

Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2017

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