Story and photo by Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
While many of us have emergency plans in place for our families, most of us probably don’t have specific plans for our pets beyond grabbing them and running if disaster should strike. Members of the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART), which focuses on animal safety and rescue, gave a presentation at the West Seattle Senior Center last night, sponsored by West Seattle Be Prepared, to provide information and resource sites for getting your pets as prepared for an emergency as the rest of the family.
WASART co-founder/president Gretchen McCallum, along with volunteer Ginger Dixon (R-L in photo), noted that the human/animal bond is never more important than in times of extreme stress, and WASART was created after stories of animals abandoned during Katrina were publicized. McCallum points out, “If it’s not safe for you to stay in your house, it’s not safe for your pets.”
Besides having enough food, water and medical supplies for your pet, McCallum focused on being able to identify your pet.
She said that post-Katrina, shelters were set up for unidentified animals. However, people running the shelters noticed that individuals were coming to the shelters and picking out the “bully breeds” such as pit bulls to use in dog fights, claiming, “That’s my dog.” One of McCallum’s recommendations is to have a photo taken of you with your pet, and having that photo on your cell phone and on the pet’s carrier. Also, take a look at emergency contact cards created by the American Veterinary Medical Association to help you gather contact information for your pets.
A very comprehensive document has been created by WASART to help you with getting a plan and supplies in place and can be found here. Besides cats and dogs, it covers birds (think of your urban chickens here too), reptiles and amphibians. Karen Berge of West Seattle Be Prepared mentioned she adds chemical hand-warming packets to her list to keep tropical fish or reptiles warm during transport.
We have typically been told to have three days’ worth of food/water/supplies on hand, but guidelines are being changed to warn people to have at least seven days’ worth of supplies. This goes for pets as well. Also, if you provide canned food for your pets, get the pop-top kind so you don’t have to search for the can opener. Adds Ginger Dixon: “Don’t put the stuff they don’t like in the emergency kit. If they don’t like it during the good times, they sure aren’t going to like it during the bad times.”
The key for animals is having a comprehensive plan in place to be able to relieve their stress levels during times of disaster or evacuation; from having multiple forms of pet identification and plenty of supplies, to having something that smells familiar in their crates.
More information, including upcoming trainings to participate in WASART’s rescue deployments, can be found on their website: Washingtonsart.org. Their website also provides many links to other local emergency management websites.
Finally: a good general tip from WASART is to create a list of contact numbers on your cell phone under the heading “ICE” or In Case of Emergency. McCallum says that the cell phone is often the first place responders look to contact someone who knows you.
SIDE NOTE: You may have heard of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act that was enacted post-Katrina, because of concerns that emergency responders were not allowed to rescue people’s pets during rescue efforts. The Michigan State University College of Law’s Animal Legal & Historical Center’s website states: “In order to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, a city or state is required to submit a plan detailing its disaster preparedness program. The PETS Act would simply require that the State and local emergency preparedness authorities include how they will accommodate households with pets or service animals when presenting these plans to the FEMA.” Although there are supposed to be emergency evacuation plans that include pets, McCallum notes that there aren’t any hard and fast rules about this, therefore keeping our pets safe and sheltered is ultimately up to us.