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Being prepared for disasters is vital, especially for our dogs

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we all understand the importance of disaster preparedness. But we can't forget about our pets.

In recent days, we on the West Coast watched in horror as photos from Hurricane Sandy made their way across the Internet and television. In recent years, we've seen other natural disasters, too. Who can forget the images of Hurricane Katrina, and the dogs crawling across nearly submerged rooftops? Even though Southern California is not at risk for certain disasters, we are certainly not immune. Disasters include everything from terrorist attacks to traffic accidents, floods to fires. The key is that everyone, no matter what the zip code, should have a thorough disaster plan in place so that pets are not forgotten when the worst-case scenario happens. Remember, the only guarantee in disasters is that the unexpected can—and often does—occur. The best we can do is be prepared.

"Recognizing that animal issues are human issues, including animals in disaster planning will save the lives of both," said Randall B. Covey, director of disaster services for the Humane Society of the United States. "Disaster preparedness for animals begins at home.

Owners need to take responsibility for including their pets in their evacuation plans."

Start with the basics—long before you need them.

"Proper identification, good transport kennels, several days worth of food and water, and creating a plan before disaster strikes are all things people must do," said Covey.

Make sure your pets have collars on and are microchipped. You might even want to include an out-of-area family member or friend as a contact on the tags. If your pets take medication, keep a spare prescription in the kit along with enough food and water for five days. Stash everything in an easily carried, clearly labeled container (like a duffel bag or plastic crate) in an easily accessible area (right by the door inside the garage). Just as you do with your own disaster kit, add perishables at the last minute, and rotate the rest regularly.

Ideal items include a blanket, towel, first aid kit, first aid book, toys, bones, litter box with fresh litter, current photos, adoption records, leashes and collars, and a copy of veterinary and vaccine records stored in a waterproof container. Add anything else that helps your pet feel secure.

If you are told to evacuate, leave early and take your animals with you, even if you think you'll be gone just a few hours, said Covey. ALWAYS take your animals with you. Well before a disaster, figure out where you can flee. Locate nearby and neighboring hotels that are pet-friendly. Arrange to stay at a friend's or relative's house outside the immediate area. Find 24-hour vet hospitals or boarding kennels that might take your pet in an emergency.

Consider every possibility when making your family's disaster plan. For example, what happens if a disaster occurs, you're at work, and the roads home are blocked? How about asking a trusted, stay-at-home neighbor to evacuate your pets? The trick is to arrange everything beforehand so when a disaster strikes, everyone knows what to do and how to do it. If you're home, bring pets indoors and keep them close to you, possibly on a leash or in a carrier, according to the HSUS. Keep a close watch over them even after the disaster is over.

Above all, know that just because we can't predict every disaster doesn't mean we are powerless. Making sure all two- and four-legged, winged and gilled members of your family will be prepared can make all the difference.

SIDEBAR

For more info, log on to the HSUS at www.hsus.org.

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