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Emergency prep for your dog

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Emergency prep for your dog

If you were faced with an emergency such as a natural disaster, would you and your dog be prepared? 

Many people believe they could easily manage in an emergency, but when faced with the actual event they often panic. Some first responders will tell you to provide sufficient food and water for your dog and leave him behind. But remember – if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your dog. Groups such as the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) have been founded to assist pet owners faced with large-scale emergencies, but the primary responsibility for your dog’s care always rests with you.

Make a plan

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, from major events like floods and wildfires, to smaller ones such as house fires, car accidents and medical emergencies. Making a proper plan for your dog, and practising that plan, is good preparation.

The first step in being prepared for your dog is being prepared for yourself and your human family (for information on personal preparedness, visit getprepared. gc.ca/index-eng.aspx). Depending on the emergency, you may be required to evacuate, or you might have to shelter in place. Different preparations and supplies are needed for each situation. Regardless of the type of emergency, be sure to have identification for your dog with an out-of-town contact name and number so he can be reunited with you if he gets lost.

As soon as you become aware of a disaster in your area, make sure your dog is indoors and easily accessible, and that you have emergency supplies and “grab and go” kits at hand (see page 100). In the event of evacuation, you will only have moments to leave, so everyone, including each dog in the household, needs a grab and go kit.

Evacuate or stay home?

People who have been evacuated from their homes are sent to reception centres where they register and obtain assistance with food, lodging, clothing, etc., if needed. Normally, reception centres only allow assistance animals; however, some communities organize separate pet reception centres to provide for evacuated animals. Check with your local government to learn what their planned response is for pets.

To shelter in place, you need sufficient supplies for your family and pets to last a minimum of 72 hours, but preferably for one to two weeks. Depending on the extent of the situation, you may not get assistance for days.

What to pack 

Storage: A large airtight, weatherproof container(s) on wheels in which to store supplies

Basic necessities: Water, food, can opener, bowls, etc.

Containment: Collars/leashes/harnesses, muzzles, crates/cages

Sanitation: Poop bags, airtight containers for waste, cleaning supplies (paper towels/garbage bags/bleach)

Medical: Pet first aid kit, medications, copy of veterinary records

Comfort: Towels, bedding, grooming supplies, toys, Rescue Remedy, tarp

Identification: Photos of dog alone, and of you with your dog (to prove ownership should your dog become lost), list of ID numbers (e.g., licenses, rabies, microchip, tattoos)

Practice makes perfect

Regardless of whether you evacuate or shelter in place, you need to practice your preparedness plan. Enact a mock disaster. Pick a time and disaster type, and run through your plan first as if everyone were home, then as if some family members are away. If you have more than one dog, someone in the family must be responsible for each one. Develop a check list to ensure everyone is accounted for and all necessary steps are completed. It is a good idea to do this mock drill exercise and test your procedures at least annually.

What if you’re not home when an emergency occurs? Organize a buddy system with your neighbours so they will be able to get into your residence and rescue your dog. Give them a key and ensure they know where the grab and go kits are located and where your dog is likely to hide.

Make a grab-and-go kit

You may need to grab your kit quickly and it may be dark so store it in a central location, like a hall closet. Use easy to carry packs (a suitcase with wheels or a backpack) in case you need to evacuate your home.

Here’s what to include:

– Water – Two litres of water per person per day (Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order)

– Food – That won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace the food and water once a year)

-Manual can opener

– Flashlight and batteries

-Battery-powered or wind-up radio

– Extra batteries

– First aid kit

– Special needs items – Prescription medications, infant formula or equipment for people with disabilities

– Extra keys for your car and house

-Cash – Include smaller bills, such as $10 bills (travellers cheques are also useful) and change for pay phones

-Emergency plan – Include a copy of it and ensure it contains in-town and out-of-town contact information

-Collar/harness and leash, or crate/cage (whatever is needed to safely evacuate the dog)

– Basic necessities for 24 hours

– Medications, a copy of veterinary records, and a bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy

– Ziploc bag with small cloths or old clothing with your scent on it

– A bio of your dog with his name, health/behaviour issues, likes/dislikes and personality traits in case he has to stay at a temporary emergency shelter without you

– List of ID numbers (licenses, rabies, microchip, tattoos)

– Photos of the dog alone, and with you

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Cheryl Rogers is one of the founders of CDART and is currently the National Coordinator, Mobile Support Coordinator and is one of their animal disaster response trainers. Resident in New Westminster, BC, Cheryl leads that city's emergency pet services team and chairs the Lower Mainland Emergency Pet Services working group. She has presented at Emergency Preparedness conferences and has sat on various government consultation panels. She has responded to disasters in Canada and the United States since 1999.