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Simple steps to prepare pets for an earthquake

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The recent earthquakes were a jolting reminder that we live in earthquake country. Most Californians know what to do during an earthquake (drop, cover and hold-on) and many have a disaster preparedness plan and supply kits ready. However, if you are a pet owner you should be preparing for your pets as well.

Creating a disaster plan that includes your pets is not complicated and only requires a little bit of organization. First, find out where you can take your pet following a disaster. If you have to relocate to a shelter you will not be able to take your pets. Plan ahead and identify three to four veterinary hospitals, boarding facilities, friends or relatives that will take your pets during a disaster and you feel comfortable leaving your pet there for a week or more. Make sure each pet is properly identified with microchips and identification tags and even more importantly- that information is current. Include the names of the places where you can temporarily relocate your pet to as well as a current copy of their vaccinations, medical records and a photo in a water-proof container to keep in your disaster kit.

The second aspect of preparing your pets for an earthquake is creating a pet disaster kit. The kit should contain at least one week of (non-expired) pet food and water for each pet. Food and water bowels are also needed and if your pets are fed canned food make sure to include a can opener and a serving spoon. After feeding your pets it will probably be necessary to clean up after them. Have plastic bags and newspaper in your kit and for cats a litter box and litter. Additional items for a pet disaster kit include dog leashes, harnesses and collars, animal toys and blankets. Including grooming supplies may also provide a sense of comfort to both you and your pet. It may be necessary to include a muzzle as dogs may become fearful in strange situations and react aggressively. Store these items in a backpack or duffle bag that is easy to grab and go.

During an earthquake, pets may become frightened and will instinctively protect themselves even if that means threatening their owner. It is recommended to not hold your pet during the shaking and to let them find a place they feel safe. Once the earthquake has subsided and you have determined that you and your family is safe, check your pets for injuries and medical needs. Having a pet first aid kit is useful and can be assembled with common items or purchased pre-assembled.

Unlike earthquakes which are unpredictable we can plan and prepare ourselves for dealing with the consequences of an earthquake. Including your pets when preparing for an earthquake is simple and can avoid additional stress during a disaster.

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