Residents of the UK and their pets are luckier than some in other parts of the world in generally not being exposed to the more severe natural disaster that can strike, such as raging wildfires, great earthquakes and devastating tsunamis. However, contrary to popular belief, the UK does still have its share of natural disasters. For example, the UK Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) claims an average of 33 tornadoes are reported annually, with the most severe destroying 600 homes in central London and the most recent in 2007 causing total devastation in central and southern England, uprooting trees and tearing roofs away.
Nevertheless, the most common natural disasters you will have to deal with will probably be strong storms, gales and flooding – and if you have a pet in your family, it is important to make sure that you have prepared for their safety as well in the event of an emergency.
Unfortunately, not all natural disasters come with advance warning so it is best to be prepared at all times and to have planned ahead for any eventuality. In times of emergency, danger and confusion, it is very hard not to panic but some forward planning and preparation will help you think more clearly to ensure that everyone in your family – including all the furred and feathered members – get to safety.
Your Pet Survival Kit
Just like it helps to have prepared a kit for the human members of your family with emergency supplies, it is good to have a similar kit for your pet. This can include:
- 2 weeks worth of any medications your pet may be taking
- As much food and water as possible (ideally enough for 2 weeks although this can be harder with larger animals)
- A photo of you with your pet in the case of separation, as well as ownership papers.
- Extra collars with ID tags
- Extra leashes
- Pet first aid supplies, such as bandages, disinfectant, a muzzle, antiseptic cream, etc.
- Numbers of the local vet and animal shelter
- A copy of your pet’s vaccination and other health records.
- Towels & blankets
- Toys & treats
These should all be placed together in a waterproof container, close to your pet’s travel crate or carrier.
Try not abandon your pets – even if you leave them food and water, you do not know how long it may be before you can return. If you must leave them for whatever reason, try to ensure that they have at least 10 days worth of dry food and water and leave them in an enclosed space, where they can be easily found and released if necessary. Leave signs notifying rescuers and animal welfare organisations of your pets’ presence and contact your local RSPCA for help.
Make sure you have a plan in case you will need to evacuate your home in a hurry. Decide which member of the family will be in charge of rounding up the animals and who will be in charge of collecting their supplies. Check that all family members are clear on the evacuation procedures and do a practice run if you have to. Remember, things always take twice as long when animals are involved, particularly if they are frightened and panicking, so make sure you build that into your plan and have trained your animals to tolerate being restrained. If you have a cat or a small dog (or other small mammal), make sure they are used to being carried in their travel crates or containers. Finally, talk with your neighbours and try to form agreements to help each other in the event of a natural disaster, so that they can help you evacuate your pets if you can’t get back in time – and vice versa.
If you have to leave your home with your pets, make sure you have researched options of where you can stay with them or where you can safely leave them. Some emergency shelters will accept pets with their owners but you will often have to check and/or register in advance. Otherwise, you will have to check nearby pet-friendly hotels or similar accommodation – keep a list of local accommodation which accepts pets and be familiar with where they are. Sometimes, it will not be possible to stay with your animals but if you can find an emergency boarding location where they will be safe temporarily, you can at least leave them there with peace of mind. So research such a place beforehand. Don’t forget to keep your pet’s health records with you as most boarding places will still want to check them.
Know Your Disaster
Pay attention to weather patterns and the news in general – and familiarise yourself with the type of natural disasters which can occur in your area. For example, if you are in an area which is at risk from severe storms and gales, make sure you have enough food and water supplies in case you are “stormed in” for several days. Keep your pets indoors in an enclosed area and make sure any fixtures, such as window shutters, are securely fixed and can withstand the force of the storm. Also, be aware that animals – especially cats – can sense impending danger and might run away to hide – so be sure to keep them confined to a safe place as soon as possible.
If you live in a flood-risk area, make sure you have planned your escape route with your pets. The RSPCA provides emergency help numbers for those with pets and it is worth making a note of these and having them in a handy location. Don’t forget that floodwater can rise very rapidly – you may not have as much time as you think! Especially as moving with animals may slow you down. So as soon as you receive a flood warning, don’t simply hope for the best – take precautions in advance. If your house has 2 storeys, move your pets to the upstairs level, together with their food and bedding. Keep their important documents with them in a waterproof plastic bag.
Simply by being prepared, you will have gone a long way towards protecting your pet during a natural disaster.