Since hearing about the potential dangers of a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest and Portland in particular, I have decided that I would like to find ways to teach people how to help their pets in a disaster. I want to share with you some of the things that I am learning from my own research and from the NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) classes I am taking.

This is the first of several articles I will be writing to help people learn more about disaster preparedness for their pets. It only touches the tip of the iceberg and should not be considered to be comprehensive. I invite you to also participate in helping others prepare their pets by sharing your own ideas and experiences by commenting below.

Emergency shelters

As many of you may be aware, hurricane Katrina illustrated the low position that pets held in the hierarchy of importance during a disaster to disaster recovery agencies. While there is now developing awareness in relief agencies such as FEMA of the deep bond that many of us have with our pets, there is still little consideration taken on a local level for their sheltering and care needs in a disaster. The PETS Act was passed to help change this, but implementation has been slow to develop on the local level.

The current plan in Portland is for some animal shelters and veterinary hospitals to help with the care and sheltering of animals after a disaster in Portland. However, unless you happen to be lucky to be near enough to get to one of them, it may be very difficult to leave your animal off at one of these locations for shelter or care.

Prepare for your pet’s needs

Expect that many (if not all) emergency shelters (for people) are likely to refuse to allow pets to come in with their owners. Also expect that very few emergency shelters will have available any means to house and/or care for pets. Consider finding a portable, compact light-weigh crate or pet carrier that can be easily carried should evacuation be required. Don’t forget to teach your pet to be comfortable staying in the crates and carriers.

Bring your pet’s food and medications with you. Also consider what alternate sheltering options (such as your own tent) might be available to you should you be refused access to the shelter if you want to keep your pet with you.

Since it will likely be necessary for you to take shelter near your home, especially in the time immediately following a disaster, make sure that you have planned for your pet’s comfort and care as well as your own. Have adequate food, water and medications for their needs for the time you will spend there. Be aware of the expiration dates for your stored items and “use what you store” before it expires.

With the water delivery infrastructure (pipes and municipal water storage) having likely been significantly damaged or destroyed, water will be one of the most critical needs in the time after an earthquake. Since it is recommended that people store approximately 1-2 gallons a day (per person) to address their needs, plan on at least 2 quarts up to 1 gallon per day (or up to 2 gallons for large breed dogs) for each pet that you have. Consider having a rain-water collection system and a water filtration system to available to replenish supplies over a longer term.

I hope that you found this article helpful. It is an area that I am really interested in making people aware about and hope that it inspires you to get more prepared to help your pet.