Don’t Leave Me Behind (img: cute puppy and cat pic)
Pets make great companions. They’re always there for us. Dogs greet us at the door. Cats, at least it seems like, tolerate us and occasionally let us pet them. Snakes, lizards, gerbils, even pot bellied pigs, these animals become part of our family. But when disaster strikes, most people, even those who have a plan for their family, don’t have a plan for their animal friends. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, it is estimated that over six-hundred-thousand animals were killed or stranded. As the flood waters rose six to fifteen feet, people fled for their lives or were lifted off rooftops by helicopter, and all they could do was hope for their pets and animals that they had to leave behind. Prepping is about creating options for yourself, so you can avoid and stave off the ultimate choice of having to abandon your pet.
We think every blog we have done, we get at least one request for this topic, so in this blog, we will look at prepping for your pet. What can you do to increase your pet’s chances of survival? What can you do now to prepare for bugging-in or bugging-out with your animals. After any disaster, your pets can become frightened, confused, and disoriented. More than ever, they will need your support and will look to you for comfort and reassurance.
1- Identify Your Pet
Having a means to identify your pet should you need to prove ownership, vaccinations, or simply find them after a disaster is critical if you become separated or your animal is lost in the chaos of a crisis. Microchipping your animal is a good method, but scanning systems may not be available. Collars and tags are still the most reliable means, but these can be ripped off if the animal becomes snagged on debris or while fleeing to safety. Having a recent photo of you with your animal is a good way to prove ownership.
Often, after a disaster, animals are sheltered for only a short time and then euthanized. This is especially true if ownership and shot records cannot be proven for the animal. After many natural disasters, it’s a race against the clock to prevent diseases, and animals can create sanitation problems. Being able to solidly identify your animal and prove that they are healthy and pose no ongoing health threats is the first step of any emergency plan for your animals.
2- Bug-in and bug-out food and water
Just like you have a plan to bug-in and a plan to bug-out, you should have one for your pets as well. The safest option for you is always to bug-in, but in the case of a rising indefensible threat, rising flood waters, fires burning out of control, and more, sometimes bugging-out is your only option. If you have a bug-out location and can get out early enough, you will want to take your animals with you if possible. But whether you need to bug-in or bug-out, you will need some essential items for your animal.
Dried food that is vacuum sealed in your supplies will stay dry, insect free, and last longer. Unlike humans, animals can eat food that is unfit for human consumption. The same is true for water. Water that would make a human sick from a puddle in the street, will likely have little ill effect on an animal. This isn’t one hundred percent true all the time. Animals can and do get sick from food and water, but they do have a higher tolerance for pathogens then we humans do. Ideally, you should have stored for your animals a month’s worth of food for a bug-in situation and two to three weeks worth of grab and go food for a bug-out situation.
Water being essential to survival should also be stored for your animal and calculated as part of your overall supply. Consider some type of water bladder for larger animals to store water for a bug-out situation. They can be filled quickly and can supply a basic amount of water in a survival situation.
3- Gear Up
In addition to food and water, medium to large dogs can be trained to be comfortable with a pack. Many dogs are actually working breeds, so they won’t mind carrying some essential survival items, their own food, and their own water. Basically, a pack with large secure pockets and a handle to carry and help your animal over rugged terrain, will be helpful in a bug-out situation. You should not wait until disaster strikes before you try these items out. Animals have an adjustment period so you may want to lightly load the pack and take your animal on walks until they have grown accustomed to the feel and the added weight.
On that note, a hiking leash and protective shoes for paw protection are also essential in a bug-out situation. A rugged hiking leash of 10 feet will give you a safe range to allow your animal to lead or fall slightly behind as they navigate difficult terrain. A hiking leash will be more rugged than your typical leash, but in a true disaster, a length of rope will suffice if you have to get out in a hurry. Many animals have adapted to the easy lifestyle of home and apartment dwelling. While they may get a walk now and then, even daily, long treks can hurt their paws. They really have to have an opportunity to get used to wearing these shoes, though. For some, they may never be able to. Others, it may just take an occasional walk around the block for them to adapt. These anti-slip protectors became popularized by search dogs in the debris after 9-11 and other disasters. Now, there are a range of low price options available.
Finally, some small animals will never make it under their own strength. For them, you may want to gear up with a small to midsize animal carrier. This will reduce your ability to carry items you need, but if you absolutely must bug-out with your pet, this may be your only safe means to do so. When you are fleeing from a disaster, you should not allow yourself to be slowed down by a slow or helplessly panicking animal.
Most animals will not fare well in a bug-out situation. Like their soft, out-of-shape human counterparts, they may have grown accustomed to regular meals, treats, and nap times. The risk of your animal becoming injured, scratched up, banged-up or chaffed from the added gear and the need to move over rough terrain is very high. Any medicines your animal relies upon should be well stocked as an extra in your prepping supplies, but also make sure you have gauze bandages, antibiotic ointment, and an ointment specially formulated for skin like Bag Balm.
For high energy and easily frightened animals, you may want to have some natural anti-anxiety solutions like CBD or something prescribed by a veterinarian. Think of your animal’s mental toughness and resilience as its likelihood of survival.
Whatever you decide is right for your animal, make sure you construct a first aid kit specifically for them as part of your emergency supplies. In this way, they will have their potential needs met without drawing upon you and your family’s necessary and critical resources.
5- Know Where to Go & When to Let Go
If you become separated from your animals or you are forced to leave them behind, know in advance where the shelters are. That will be your starting point for reuniting with your pets. Pets displaced by a disaster are frequently kept in shelters and by organizations in the State where the disaster occurred. Contact your local humane society, animal welfare organization, County or State Animal Response Team to locate the shelters or organizations near you.
And, finally, know when to let go. If your beloved pet labrador is 11 years old and strains to make it around the block on walks, he’s not going to make it in a late bug-out. If that’s a consideration for you when a hurricane is coming, you may want to pre-emptively bug-out while the roads are clear and all the foods and medicines your lab requires can be transported in your vehicle. If you instead wait it out and you have to be evacuated by the Coast Guard, you may have to leave what you can behind and hope for the best. It’s not uncommon for farmers to release their herds and animals when they can’t get them all to safety. Even the most domesticated of animals can find a way to survive the most hostile of circumstances. Once the scent confusion and disruption has passed, your animal will likely try to find its way home. That’s where you should look for them again if you get the chance. Though your pet may have been a great companion throughout your life, you cannot sacrifice yours or another family member’s life for them. Think of the selfless love the animal has given you and take solace in knowing that your beloved pet would gladly sacrifice themselves for their master. It’s horribly sad but completely true.
We would love to hear from you what precautions you have made or what you plan to prep for your animals. Please put any suggestions, tips, or information you have in the comment section below. If you have any comments or anything you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below. We learn a tremendous amount from you as well, and together we stay prepared for whatever the world throws at us.
As always, please stay safe out there.