By Paulette Solinski, JD, CPDT-KA
Disasters come in all sizes, but I’d venture to guess that most of us don’t have much of a plan if something happens. Think about it- what if your town was hit by a natural disaster or if your family suddenly became homeless or had an issue with domestic violence. There are a lot of resources for humans, but pets add a whole layer of complexity to these types of situations.
Let’s start with a couple of personal situations:
Suppose you face eviction from your home and you have a dog. That is a lot to deal with, but there are resources to help. In Chicago, for example, The Anti-Cruelty Society has the excellent SAFE (Short-term Accommodations for Emergencies) program. It provides emergency shelter for your pets for thirty days while you look for a solution to your housing situation. While your pet is there, he gets food, water, socialization, exercise and basic medical care.
If you’re looking for emergency pet accommodation programs in your area, check out the Directory of Safe Havens for Animals Programs at the humanesociety.org. Or you can just google “Safe Havens for Pets” for a list of organizations near you.
What if you need a shelter for both you and your family, or you’re looking to help out a friend with a dog? You may be surprised to learn that many shelters accept families and their pets; there’s even a national animal organization dedicated to feeding and providing emergency veterinary care to pets of the homeless. Check out petsofthehomeless.org and plug in your location to find shelters for abused women and families that allow you to bring your pet.
Finally, if the disaster is widespread and affecting an entire community, it can be very helpful to have a plan in place. Basic things to put together include current pictures of every person and every pet. Make copies of all important documents like driver’s licenses, or IDs, insurance cards. Make sure your dog is chipped and maintain her chip information. (If you’re not sure about the status of your dog’s chip, next time you’re at the vet ask him to do a scan to make sure it’s in place). This is just a start, but keep these in a safe place for easy access if you have to evacuate your home or even your town. To prepare a complete plan check out FEMA.gov or ready.gov, but be sure to include a search for specialized pet information (you can also check out our pet emergency kit blog here.)
Now is as good a time as any to channel your inner Girl or Boy Scout and BE PREPARED.