|Vet Practice News: Don't let disaster strike twice. By Dr. Robin Brennen|
Five years later, the visions of Katrina still haunt me. Day after day for weeks on end, truck loads of rescued animals, homeless, scared, and suffering from exposure and starvation came into the shelter I was working at. These voiceless victims had little chance of seeing their families again. It is estimated over 15,000 animals were rescued but only 15-20% were ever reunited with their owners. The number of animals that died during Hurricane Katrina due to drowning, starvation, disease and misfortune is unknown, but is thought to be in the tens of thousands.
Don't let disaster strike twice. Take the time to make a plan with your family to ensure that your pets are included in your evacuation strategy before a catastrophic emergency strikes.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing reunification of pets with their families was lack of adequate identification. Animals with rabies tags could not be traced back to their families because many vet hospitals where the medical records were kept were covered in more than 10 feet of water. Pet ID tags were of little use because most owners evacuated leaving no forwarding address or workable phone numbers. Bideawee recommends permanent identification with a microchip. Registering the microchip will allow you to immediately notify the company in the event that your pet is lost or stolen but it also enables you to change your address in the event you are displace. Therefore you are always reachable.
In 2006 President Bush signed the PETS Act into Law. The Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards act requires all States seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. This means that provisions need to be provided by the state to evacuate and shelter people and pets. Each state has different accommodations and you should know what your state's are beforehand. In addition, identify alternative arrangements with boarding kennels or family members so you are not frantically arranging things at the last minute. Identify hotels nearby that accept pets. Please note that not all Red Cross shelters accept pets. No matter what, don't ever leave your home with out your pet.
It is a good idea to have a check list prepared or a "GO Bag" with all of the supplies you will need to support your pet while you are evacuated. Medications, food, bedding, litter pans/litter, crates and toys, bottled water, disposable bags for pet waste, leashes, collars, cleaning supplies, dishes, and a familiar item from home that can minimize anxiety. In addition, a photocopy of all medical records and a photograph of your pets should be included.
Dr. Robin Brennen is the Vice President, Chief of Veterinary Services at Bideawee and is a Team Commander for the National Veterinary response team. She spent 4 months in New Orleans in post Hurricane Katrina helping the city's animals.
In honor of all of the animals displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bideawee is offering a discount on microchips during August and September. Click here for coupon.