Your Pet and the Threat of Floods
Many homes have pets. According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owner’s Survey, about 85 million US homes (68% of all of them) do, and small wonder. Research has shown that owning pets is good for both our physical and our emotional health.
Of course, you probably don’t cherish your dog, cat, or other pet based solely or even mainly on that kind of calculation. You simply love the animal, and because you do, you’d be heartsick if you lost your pet as the result of a flood. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Protect Your Pet from Floods: Preparedness
Preparedness is key to making sure you don’t lose your pet in a flood.
Plan ahead by checking which local shelters take pets and which don’t. That way, if you need to evacuate, you and your friend can go to one that does. It may not be as difficult to find one as you anticipate. Congress passed a law enabling FEMA to provide funding to states and localities for the creation of pet-friendly shelters and other resources for rescuing and caring for pets in emergencies. You can check on online to see what your area has to offer.
If nothing’s available, perhaps you can make advance arrangements with friends or family outside the evacuation zone to shelter your pet temporarily.
You’ve probably heard that a person should take a Go bag when evacuating. Your pet needs one too. It should contain a week’s worth of food; moist or canned is preferable because it reduces the need for water and stays fresh longer. The bag should also have bowls, medications (make sure you have an adequate supply), a non-retractable leash for a dog or cat, proof of vaccinations to show shelter workers, and anything else that will help your pet feel safe and comfortable. Familiar toys that smell of home can be a considerable comfort.
If you use a pet carrier to transport your pet, make you know where it is and that it’s readily accessible. Put a warm blanket over the carrier if it’s cold; don’t put water inside while the carrier’s in motion.
Cats, rabbits, and other small animals must travel in carriers, birds in cages, and dogs with sturdy leashes.
Arrange for a trusted neighbor to take charge of your pet in case you’re traveling when an evacuation order comes.
If you board your pet while traveling, make sure the boarding facility is not prone to flooding and that there’s a plan in place to protect the animals if it does.
When severe weather is approaching, stay updated by following updates on local TV or radio.
If your pet is a horse out in the pasture, plan an escape route and evaluate whether you need additional gates for emergency access. Put notices with your contact info on the gates. Don’t leave tack on the barn floor.
Finally, understand that in that amid the chaos of a flood, your pet could conceivably get separated from you even though you’re trying your best not to let that happen. Should that occur, identity tags with up-to-date contact information and microchipping will help reunite you with the animal later on. (Identity tags on the collar are actually a legal requirement for dogs.)
Your Pet and Floods: When It’s Time to Evacuate
Take your pet with you, and don’t forget that animal’s Go bag in the hurry. Ideally, you’re both headed for the same place. You’d likely prefer it, and your pet certainly will. If it’s not possible, deliver your pet to the temporary caretaker you’ve identified.
Your Pet and Floods: If There’s Nowhere to Take Your Pet
It’s highly unfortunate but possible that there will simply be nowhere safe to take your pet, yet it will be necessary for you yourself to evacuate. In that case, whatever you do, don’t tie the animal up or leave it outdoors. Put your pet in an upper-story room and don’t restrain the animal there, either. Leave dry bedding plenty of food and water where your pet will have no difficulty getting at them.
If you have more than one pet, put them in separate rooms no matter how well the get along in normal circumstances. The stress of the storm and the strange situation can make them unpredictable.
Post signs on exterior doors to let emergency workers know there’s a pet (or pets) inside the house. The signs should include the animal’s name, your name, and your contact info.
Notify the SPCA and/or the local Flood Warden about the situation without delay.
Your Pet and Floods: The Most Important Rule
Above all, don’t endanger your own life to save a pet. Horrible as it is to contemplate losing your pet, a human life is more important.
But it shouldn’t come to that. Take the measures outlined above, and it’s likely your best friend will come through the flood in good shape.