Having to evacuate your home for any reason can be a scary and chaotic experience, especially when you have pets.    

First of all, never, never leave your pets behind.  The odds of someone else rescuing them is slim.  They could be hurt or even parish.  When you have pets, you should leave early and give yourself plenty of time to evacuate.  Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation because you could get stuck in traffic with thousands of other people.

When you have to evacuate with pets, there are more challenges than you might think.  Where will you stay with your pets?  Do you have food, water and medications for them?  How long will it be before I can return home?  If I can’t return home then what?

After Hurricane Harvey, so many people surrendered their pets to shelters because they couldn’t care for them.  After the Campfire in Paradise California, we saw lines of people outside of shelters waiting to see if their pets had been rescued. The fire came through when most people were at work or school and could not get back home.  During the Caldor Fire last year people set up tents and stayed in their cars when the Red Cross would not allow them in the shelter with their pets.  Most of them showed up without any supplies for their pets, even bowls for water.

Most of the time you will know within 72 hours if you can return home, so it’s important to have the supplies you need for your pets for at least 72 hours.

What can you expect if you have to go to a shelter with your pets?

Red Cross Shelter – Red Cross is designed to help shelter people and its Mission Statement reads:

“The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors”

Not one word about pets.  They will most likely not have supplies or housing for your pets and will usually partner with a local Animal Control to set up temporary housing at fairgrounds or animal shelters large enough to house many pets.  If the Red Cross does allow you to keep your pet, they need to be socialized, crate trained and you will need a copy of their shot records and supply a crate for your pet.

However, there are some alternatives if you need to evacuate with your pets.

Hotel – Make sure you carry a list of Pet-Friendly Hotels along your evacuation routes.  It might be in the next town over.  They fill up fast during emergencies.  Again, you will need to have all your pet’s supplies with you in their go-bag.  Remember store shelves go bare fast when there is a disaster.

Friend or Family Members House – This can be a challenge if pets have not been introduced prior.  Some dogs and cats don’t get along with other dogs and cats so make sure you bring your crates and your pets have been crate trained.  In all of these scenarios if you have a go-bag for your pet it can ease the stress and give you that extra 72 hours of supply

Surrendering your pet should always be your last option.  Try to do everything you can first to keep your pet even calling on a friend or family member to keep them temporarily until you can make arrangements to take them back.  Some animal shelters and rescue groups have fostering programs.  The best scenario is to be prepared and not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Social media can be another resource, during the campfire a group was set up on Facebook to help foster pets until the Campfire victims could get back on their feet.  Just make sure you do your homework and get references for the people you are leaving your pets with.

Make a plan today, and set up a buddy system with a neighbor or close friend that can grab your pets if you can’t get back home.  Have a Save my pet Window decal in the window to let first responders know you have pets inside.

Preparing today could save your pet’s life tomorrow.

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