Expert Tips to Safeguard Your Furry Friends During Disasters

Making sure your pets will be safe during a natural disaster is a key part of pet ownership. (North Shore Animal League America)

With advice on everything from preparing emergency kits to creating evacuation plans, National Pet Preparedness Month urges pet owners to think ahead and take proactive steps to ensure that all family members, including the furry ones, are protected when disaster strikes.

According to Beverly Poppell, director of the Pet Safe Outreach Program for the Nassau County  Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), even the most responsible pet owners can sometimes overlook the importance of having a disaster plan. Without proper planning, pets may be left without essential supplies such as food, water, and medicine, or may be abandoned in environments they cannot navigate or escape from on their own. “At the Hurricane Sandy shelter, we had more than 500 pets in under a five-month period. This was the storm that reminded many people that Long Island is vulnerable to disasters, and being prepared is key.”

Start with a pet emergency go kit with enough supplies for about ten days. Poppell outlines the essentials: copies of vaccination records, pet registration, current pictures, medications, a food supply, pet bowls, hygiene items like poop bags, grooming supplies, cat litter or straw, blankets, an extra collar and leash, and a pet first aid kit. “Make it a family event,” she suggests. “Get everyone involved in preparing the kit. You can start small and continuously add more supplies. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, which can lead to procrastination or forgetfulness.”

Poppell also highlighted the importance of safe pet transport. “Traveling with an animal has to be safe for everyone. Never let pets ride in the front seat. In an accident, the airbag could kill them.” Poppell keeps her 90-pound pup tethered with a harness clipped to the car’s child safety restraint anchor. “This gives her room to move around but keeps her secure. In an emergency, it’s crucial to have control over your pet before opening the car door.”  For best results, make traveling with your companion part of your daily routine, so in the event you need to transport them, they will feel more comfortable in transit. 

There are, of course, non-disaster emergency situations that can always arise, so make sure you have a backup plan in the event you are unable to get home for any reason. “Having a neighbor or friend who can access your home and take care of your pet is vital,” says Poppell. 

Since 2012, there have been changes in Nassau County’s emergency response; it no longer includes a large-scale pet-friendly shelter like the one set up during Hurricane Sandy.  Before disaster strikes, know where pet-friendly hotels/motels and Red Cross facilities are located. For more information including a Pet Safe Go-Kit Supply Sheet, visit https://www.nassaucountyspca.org/disaster-response. To schedule Pet Safe Outreach to speak at your school or organization, call Pet Safe at 516-404-5513.