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Pets Depend On Us for their Safety
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Bob Mullins
April 22, 2007

"My dog was swimming in the living room."

Tiffany, age 9, and her mom used their disaster plan may have saved her dog Molly
Tiffany, age 9, and her mom used their disaster plan may have saved her dog Molly

That's how nine-year-old Tiffany Zapatta remembers the evening when a Nor'easter blew into Bound Brook, N.J.

Tiffany's mother, Gerty, remembers it differently. "We were watching television when we heard the sounds of the storm and looked outside. Water was rising rapidly and we didn't know what to do."

Before the Zapattas knew it, water was coming into their house. Since this was the third time their home has flooded since 1999, they had an evacuation plan – including a plan for their dog, Molly. And they made it work.

They had already put together an emergency kit with clothing, medication, important documents and other essentials for themselves and their pet.

Gerty and Tiffany wouldn't consider leaving Molly behind; she's a part of the family.

Be Prepared with a Disaster Plan

The American Red Cross and its partner, Humane Society of the United States, recognize that pets enrich our lives in more ways than we can count.

In turn, our pets depend on us for their safety and well-being.

Just as the best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan, if you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets.

In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.

  • Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets
    Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters. Service animals which assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of an evacuation, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes!
    • Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with your other disaster information and supplies. If you are alerted to an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
    • Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
    • Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
    • Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets during a disaster. Animal shelters may be overwhelmed caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
  • Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit
    Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you'll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (a duffle bag or covered trash containers, for example). Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:
    • Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.
    • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
    • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
    • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
    • Pet bed or toys if easily transportable.

Tiffany Zapatta and her mother took refuge in a Red Cross shelter, after depositing Molly in a shelter operated by a Red Cross partner agency. As Gerty Zapatta makes plans for the future, she has the comfort of knowing that – eventually – she, Tiffany and Molly will be together, safe and sound, again.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

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