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10 Steps to Protect Your Pets During an Emergency

An emergency plan for your pets means a safer outcome in the event of a disaster.

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Disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and fires can occur without warning. That's why it's important for you to have an emergency plan in place for your furry family members before tragedy occurs. Here are 10 important tips you should follow to keep your pet safe during an unexpected emergency.

1. Microchip your pet. Make sure all your pets have microchips to help identify them in case they get separated from you. During a storm, for example, an open door or a broken gate is all that's needed for a frightened pet to run away. Your pet should also wear a secure collar with identification tags firmly attached.

2. Find alternative housing. Animals are often not allowed in public shelters. So, it's important for you to find an alternative that works for the entire family. Check with local hotels to find out which ones allow pets and put their phone numbers into your cell phone. That way, you can book at a moment's notice when trouble brews.

3. Own a crate for every pet. Make sure every animal in your family has its own crate for transportation and temporary shelter. You don't want to stuff Kitty into a pillowcase at the last minute to get your cat to safety. And, never try to squeeze all your animals into a single crate.

4. Document health records. Keep a file of all your animals' medical records in an easily accessible place so that you can grab them on your way out the door. Having your pets' medical records is important to prove that they are up to date on all their inoculations, particularly rabies and distemper.

5. Make a housing list. Contact friends and family who could temporarily house your pets in an emergency, especially if you can't find a pet-friendly shelter or hotel nearby. Talk to them about a plan to transport your pets to their care during difficult times.

6. Indicate pet ownership. Put an emergency pet alert sticker on a window of your home so that emergency workers will know there are animals inside. This is especially important in case disaster strikes when you aren't home and you are prohibited from reentering your neighborhood during the emergency.

7. Take photos. Make sure you have an up-to-date, clear photo of each of your pets. This will help identify your cat or dog if it becomes lost or gets picked up by animal control. It's also smart to have a photo of yourself taken with your pets to help prove ownership.

8. Create an emergency kit for your pets. The kit should contain at least three days worth of food and water, as well as litter pans, litter, leashes, and any medicine your pet requires.

9. Don't depend on animal shelters. Don't assume your local animal shelter will be able to house your pets during an emergency. Animal shelters are not boarding facilities and are generally overwhelmed during times of crisis with their own animals.

10. Don't leave a pet behind. Never leave your pet behind during an emergency. During Hurricane Katrina, for example, many owners left their pets to fend for themselves, assuming they'd be back to take care of them quickly. Yet, the disaster lasted much longer than anticipated and abandoned pets began to run out of food and water. Your pets are your responsibility, so keep your entire family together throughout the disaster. With early planning, you and your pets can stay safe and together.

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