What if a medical problem arises while your animal is in someone else’s care? Do they have clear instructions about what to do, who to call, who is your veterinarian?
What if they cannot get hold of you and the situation is severe enough that a decision on care or even worse, a decision on humane euthanasia needs to be made?
Consider some of the following questions:
Do you have a dog walker caring for your pet while you are at work?
Do you hire a pet/barn/house sitter to care for your animals when you take a trip?
Do you board your pet when you are away?
Do you board your horse off your property?
All of these scenarios have one thing in common – someone other than you is caring for your animal.
Every year about this time, my husband and I take a trip with his grown daughters. As we get ready for each year’s trip, my thoughts turn to care for our animals and leaving our pet/farm sitter well prepared to deal with whatever comes her way. While no one wants to think about the worst happening to their pet while they are away, it is possible that a pet may become ill or injured in your absence. This year in particular, I have a senior dog who has already outlived the veterinary prediction for his mortality in the face of a debilitating degenerative disease.
For years prior to becoming a veterinarian, I maintained an emergency directive with my own vet. Once I became a practicing vet, I encouraged my clients to do the same. Aside from considering having an emergency directive while you are on a trip, it can help your pet or horse receive prompt veterinary care if needed during an emergency or disaster.
An Emergency Directive is a document outlining who is to be contacted in case of an emergency, who is your designee if you cannot be reached, who is your veterinarian and how much money can the veterinarian spend without your direct consent (in a case where you cannot be contacted in a timely manner). A copy of this should be left with the animal caretaker as well as your selected veterinarian(s). You may also consider discussing with your veterinarian adding a clause that in the case that you are unreachable and the selected veterinarian deems that your animal is not salvable and would suffer if allowed to remain alive; the veterinarian has your permission to make the decision to euthanize your animal. This directive should be reserved for situations where death is inevitable but suffering can be avoided. While this is a difficult thing to sign, you can spare your animal extended suffering in a terminal situation.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional — Haruki Murakami
Too often following a disaster, Animal Emergency Response Teams are tasked with rescuing pets that were left behind during an evacuation. A hugely disproportionate number of these animals are cats. Is it because owners thought they would be okay on their own? Is it because they were unprepared and did not have a means of transporting them? Or is it that when the time came to leave, the cat was hiding and could not be found? Most likely each one of these issues has been a cause of a cat being left behind but none of them are a valid reason.
First and foremost, if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pet. A mandatory evacuation means that it is not safe for you to remain in your home without risk to your safety. Even if you think the house may remain safe, there is no assurance that you will be able to return in sufficient time to care for your pet.
You should have a carrier for each one of your cats. Then, do not wait for an
emergency for your cat to get used to being in the carrier. You can decrease your cat’s stress of traveling by allowing her to get used to the carrier at home. Remove the door and place a favorite bed, towel or pad inside. Your cat’s natural curiosity and interest in hiding spots will lead her to explore the carrier. Leave the carrier on the floor – if it is not in the way, you can leave it indefinitely allowing it to become a favorite hiding spot for your cat. When it comes time to evacuate, put the door back on before putting the cat inside and you will be ready to go.
So now your cat is used to the carrier but when it comes time to evacuate, do not wait until the last minute to try to put the cat inside the carrier. The cat may become frightened and hide if there is a lot of activity inside your house or outside (i.e., evacuation preparations, hammering plywood over windows, strong storm winds blowing and/or other commotion). Before things get hectic, either place the cat in the carrier or close the cat in a small room where she cannot easily hide from you.
Worst case scenario: you are caught off guard and do not have a carrier – use a box (or even a pillow case) until you can get to a safe place to transfer your cat to a more suitable carrier or crate. These options are better than leaving your cat in harm’s way.
Under no circumstances should you leave your cat behind during a mandatory evacuation.
The year 2013 brought many lessons in animal emergency preparedness. The year started with many NJ and NY coastal towns still struggling to recover from Super Storm Sandy which struck only a few months earlier. While the first few months found many focusing on recovery, it was not long before the focus turned to the next disaster response.
In April, the emergencies extended beyond natural disasters. On April 17, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon killing three and injuring scores of other. A few days later, a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas leaving 15 dead and over $100 million in property damage including a nearby school. Both events occurred without any warning – a reminder of the importance of planning for the worst well in advance.
Those who live in areas that are threatened by wildfires should know the importance of good emergency and evacuation plans. June and July of 2013 brought a number of devastating fires to California, Arizona, and Colorado. Wildfire brings the destruction of personal property but even graver is the risk to human life. Arizona saw the greatest loss of firefighters since 9-11 when 19 of their bravest were lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire in late June.
Severe storms often bring flooding and damage. Particularly notable was a September storm in Colorado that left the state facing land-slides and mud-slides brought by heavy rains and overflowing rivers. In October, an early winter storm left 100′s of thousands of dead cattle and horses killed by hypothermia or suffocated in deep snow in North Dakota. But Mother Nature was perhaps cruelest earlier in May when a series of tornadoes brought a devastating whopper to Oklahoma where a single large twister left a 12 mile path of destruction. Its 200 mph winds brought the death of 24 people including 7 elementary school children. While some of these storms had some warning, others came up quite quickly or developed into a disaster that exceeded the predictions of the weather warnings. In additio
n to the direct impact to people and even the loss of life in some cases, animals were impacted in all of them and displaced along with their owners.
These events of the last year remind us of the need to consider all the risks to our homes and the animals that reside there. It is not just during hurricane season — Emergency Preparedness is a year round commitment to being safe and knowing how to respond to any type of emergency or disaster.
For 2014, here are 12 tips for Animal Emergency Preparedness in the New Year:
1) Have an emergency plan that includes your pets — make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the plans
2) Have a back-up plan in case you cannot get home — this includes having an emergency caretaker if you are incapacitated and unable to care for your pets and having a neighbor or other local contact who can assist you during an emergency if you are unable to return home
4) Have a Pet Disaster Go Kit — include 3-5 days of food, bowls, crates/carriers, copies of medical records and a picture of your pet with you
5) Practice with your pets and all members of your family –you can get your pet used to its crate or carrier by using it as a feeding spot, a place for your pet’s bed, or a hiding spot. If they are allowed to go in and out of the crate/carrier it will be less scary and less traumatic if you have to use it for an evacuation.
6) Know where you will go with your pet during an evacuation — will you stay with family, friends, or seek a pet friendly hotel/motel? Organize this well in advance of actually needing the refuge.
7) Include plans for sheltering in place — make sure you have enough non-perishable food for at least 5 days. Have plans for loss of power including how you will access water.
8) Have both permanent and visible identification on your pet — permanent ID may be a microchip or tattoo; also have a visible easily seen and read ID tag on your pet’s collar
9) Learn pet first aid and CPR — courses are offered by humane organizations, veterinary offices, and the Red Cross
10) Evaluate your house and other buildings for fire safety — have escape plans for you, your family, and if it can be done without compromising your own safety, escape plans for your pets. Include a rendezvous point outside the danger zone
11) Follow weather reports and alerts — you can download apps to receive emergency weather alerts
12) Join your local County Animal Response Team (CART) or offer your services as a resource to be utilized during a disaster
I was watching the snow fall the other day from the comfort of my living room couch. My outdoor work had been cancelled for the day but it got me thinking – what if the snow had started while I was at work and the roads were so bad that I could not get home or worse – I tried to get home and was involved in a car accident. What if the unthinkable happened and I was incapacitated, unable to return to my home? Well, I actually have asked that question before and I do have an agreement with a neighbor who now is in possession of a spare key. But would she know to come over if I was unable to call?
It is an important question every pet owner must ask: Who will care for my pets if I am unable to come home tonight? While some responsible owners have thought to make long term plans for their pets, the question here is: what about in the immediate aftermath of your own personal disaster — what about those first 24 hours?
Many years ago, as a teenager, I was involved in a terrible car accident. I had been knocked out but was conscious by the time help began arriving. I recall EMTs asking me for my parents’ phone number. I started to rattle off something and then stopped. Suddenly, I could not recall my own phone number! Try as I did, phone numbers evaded my scrambled brain. Newer smart phones have a place or a downloadable app for an ICE entry – I.C.E. stands for “In Case of Emergency”. This allows you to list numbers of who to contact if you are incapacitated and unable to give a phone number.
Many people are taking this a step further and storing multiple ICE phone numbers and instructions including what needs to be done for pets in the immediate aftermath of an accident or emergency. In addition to smart phones, people are carrying personal flash or thumb drives with this information readily available. There are a few in the market that are either easily adapted for this purpose or specifically designed and easily recognized by emergency personnel.
- Microvault is a small device that can be clipped to a pocket, notebook or keychain.
- MedicTag is the original USB medic alert tag used for emergency alerts and information. These USB’s also clip onto keychains or can be worn as bracelets or necklaces.
- Road ID offers bracelets and other gear with actual tags allowing for 5 to 6 lines of emergency contact information. They even have collars for dogs with ICE ID tags.
However, before even buying tags or USB Emergency ID bracelets, you need to know who you are going to put as your pet emergency contact. You might choose a neighbor or family member but make sure they are aware of their role, capable and willing to fulfill the obligation, and know what would be required of them. They need to either be provided with a spare key or knowledgeable about where to find one. If you live far from family or friends, you might be able to enlist a local pet sitting service or a service through your veterinarian to fill the role of emergency contact for immediate pet care but make sure you clear this with them before listing them as a contact.
Among the listing of emergency contact numbers, it is a good idea to include Next of Kin (NOK). Your NOK should at least know the name of your temporary pet caregiver and your temporary pet caregiver should also know the name of your NOK. While it is important to list pet information, it is more likely that emergency services will contact your NOK if you are incapacitated and it may be up to your NOK to quickly arrange pet care.
Your emergency pet caregiver should ideally be familiar with your pets and their routine
and at the very least, have met the animals at least once so that they are not complete strangers. You should have an ICE write up for emergency care for the pets – what they eat, when they eat, any medications – how much, how often, how to give it, as well as listing where all these things are located. Your emergency pet caregiver needs to either have this list or know where to find it in your house (i.e., pinned to the wall in the pantry above the dog/cat food storage). Include also any special routines that need to be followed for your pets’ well-being – how often a dog is walked, where to go, where the leash is located, commands used, rewards, etc. List also veterinary contact information and talk to your veterinarian about having an emergency care permission on file in case of your absence (this is also a handy thing to have current if your pets are in a pet sitters care while you are on a trip). If your pet is shy, make sure the pet caregiver is aware of possible hiding spots and how best to coax your pet out (special treat or toy).
Knowing your pets will be cared for is one less thing to concern you when you are stranded by circumstances beyond your control. Your pets care should be one thing you always have under control.
Many pet owners include their pets on their holiday gift list, hanging a stocking for their dog or cat. But some pet owners along the Jersey shore do not even know where they will celebrate let alone how they will be able to celebrate.
This time last year, many people were struggling to put their lives back in order following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. Not just New Jersey, but the whole country was focused on the recovery efforts along the Jersey shore. Many organizations rallied to bring support to those people displaced by the storm. Many of these people had lost almost everything. Those with pets turned to their furry companions for comfort and despite the obstacles in front of them, most would not even consider giving up their pets.
A year later, the story is much improved for most, however, according to a recent article on NJ.com, over 1500 families in Ocean and Monmouth County, are still displaced from their homes and in need of assistance. http://blog.nj.com/njv_mark_diionno/2013/11/hunger_problem_grows_a_year_af.html.
The NJ.com article quotes Marion Lynch, spokesperson for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean County, “What’s happening now is that people are running out of FEMA money or their own savings,” Winters said. “I’d say 70 percent of our clients are still out of their homes. Some who are in their homes are living in places that are unfinished, without utilities or insulation. If we can save them $200 or $300 a month (by providing food), it gets them that much closer to being able to fix their homes.” The Food Bank is supplying groceries to various distribution centers including the Visitation Relief Center in Brick.
Among those families receiving assistance at the Visitation Relief Center, approximately half own pets.
According to Lisa Mulhearn, the Monmouth County SPCA’s Pet Pantry would like to offer assistance but the numbers in need far exceed their supplies. They are currently accepting donations targeted for families still struggling to recover from Sandy. Those wishing to help may make donations directly to the Pet Pantry (Please mark donations as being for Superstorm Sandy Relief). Ms. Mulhearn acknowledges that many of the people in need may be unable to travel to their location and the Pet Pantry is rallying forces to transport pet supplies to the Visitation Relief Center for distribution. Donations may also be made directly to the Visitation Relief Center.
Pet Supply Wish List:
- Any type of gift card including PetCo or PetSmart
- Wet and Dry dog food
- Dog Treats
- Wet and Dry Cat Food
- Cat Litter
- Exotic Supplies (Rabbits, Hamsters, Birds)
- Make sure all dry and exotic food is not open or expired
- Monetary donations can be made out to Monmouth SPCA Pet Pantry — indicate that the proceeds are for Superstorm Sandy Relief
The Pet Pantry location is 264 Wall Street, Eatontown, NJ 07724 (open to the public Tuesday thru Saturday 9am to 4pm)
The Visitation Relief Center location is 721 Mantoloking Road, Brick, NJ 08723 (open Monday thru Saturday 9am to 6pm)
For more information about the Pet Pantry, call Ken McKeel: 732-542-5342
For more information about the Monmouth SPCA, call Lisa Mulhearn: 732-440-1559
As you prepare for Thanksgiving (as well as Hanukah and the rest of the holiday season), don’t forget your pets. Holidays can be a very dangerous time for pets. Take a moment to consider the dangers around the house and make sure your pets do not have access to potential harm.
While candles look lovely on the table or in the windows, make sure your pets cannot reach them. Aside from the house fire danger of a knocked over candle, pets can seriously burn themselves either on the flame or the hot wax. Many households begin Christmas decorating during or soon after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Electrical holiday lights produce a different type of hazard to pets. Chewing on an electric cord can cause electric shock if plugged in and lacerations to the tongue if not.
Guests may leave items lying within reach of your pets. Designate an area out of your pets’ reach for coats, bags, purses and other items that might hold tempting hazards such as food or medication. Ask your guests not to deviate from your pets normal diet by refraining from feeding your pet food scraps. Aside from throwing your pets digestion off with the unused to cuisine, the “treats” may contain items that are toxic to your pet.
DANGERS to DOGS:
- Desserts and candy: Chocolate contains substances from the methylxanthines class (Two of these compounds, caffiene and theobromine, are found in varying amounts in chocolate.). The darker the chocolate, the higher the risk of toxicity. Chocolate toxicity may depend on the size of the dog as well as the type and amount of chocolate. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, uncontrolled urination, heart arrhythmias, shaking and seizures. If you suspect your dog has consumed even a small amount of chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately for an emergency appointment.
- Turkey bones: Cooked bones, especially poultry bones, can splinter and lacerate your dog’s digestion system. Bones can also become lodged in the throat and pieces of bone can pack in the intestine causing an obstruction. These dangers are not just to Turkey bones but to all bones.
- Fat trimmings from meat: Fatty foods, including meat trimmings, cooked and uncooked, can lead to pancreatitis making the dog very ill.
DANGERS to CATS:
- Holiday decorations: Cats, attracted by shiny objects and crinkly noise, may be tempted to play with items such as tinsel and ornaments. While not toxic, these can cause serious injury to the digestive system, even leading to death. If ingested, immediate veterinary care is needed.
Holiday plants: Many traditional holiday plants are poisonous, even deadly, to cats. Pine needles, Holly, Poinsettias, and Mistletoe can all lead to severe illness. Even a small amount of Poinsettias can lead to kidney failure. If you suspect your cat has ingested any of these plants, contact your veterinarian immediately for an emergency visit.
To read more information on how to keep your pet safe during holidays, go to http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/2012/11/keeping-pets-safe-this-holiday-season/
Get Ready! There is cold, possibly wet, weather coming our way for the Thanksgiving holiday. Do you have all your winter animal care items in place? With the holiday, it will be very difficult to get last minute items such as winter blankets or water heaters. Get your shopping done this weekend and make sure you are ready to take care of all of your animals in the colder weather.
If you take care of outdoor animals such as horses, livestock, barn cats or even feral cats — make sure they have someplace to seek shelter and stay warm. For livestock and horses, this should be at least a three sided shelter with a good leak proof roof. Animals with a thick winter coat can stay warm as long as they can stay dry. Wind can carry rain into the open door of a three sided shelter so the open side should be facing away from prevailing winds, facing a bluff of trees, or close to and facing a hill or other physical barrier to the wind. While blanketing is an option for animals whose coats are insufficient, if animals are outside most of the time, you need to make sure their blankets are staying dry.
Barn cats will burrow into hay storage for warmth. But if you’re not on a farm, that won’t be an option. Check out this webpage for suggestions on how to make an inexpensive outdoor cat shelter: http://www.ehow.com/list_6793834_winter-outdoor-shelters-cats.html
Don’t leave your friends out in the cold!
Ready Pets Go was founded on the principle that if pet owners are educated about planning and preparing for emergencies and given the information about where to go, who to contact, what to do – most will do the right thing and bring their pets with them.
Get ready, get your pets, then go! A basic survival concept – if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. Yet every year, people are evacuated and leave their pets behind. Perhaps they think they will be able to come back in a short period and reclaim their pets. Perhaps they think the pet will be okay on their own. Perhaps they just weren’t prepared to evacuate with an animal – they don’t know what to bring, how to take the pet, where to go, who to contact.
Many animal rescue and response organizations were founded in the aftermath of Katrina when not only did thousands of animals lose their lives, but many people died when they refused to evacuate without their pets. The PETS ACT was written in the aftermath to help guarantee that people evacuating with their pets would find a safe haven – yet more than a decade later, that is not always true. And just as troublesome, people still leave their pets behind – many not knowing what else to do with them. Then, as now, it is the owner’s responsibility to care for their pets. We hope the information on this site will help you, the pet owner, to be better prepared to care for your pet no matter what the circumstances.
STOP. It will be okay. A positive mental attitude increases not just your chances of survival, but also the survival of those for whom you are responsible – your family, your children and your pets.
During an emergency situation, it is very important that you do not panic. You need to have the right frame of mind to think clearly – when panic sets in, common sense often evaporates. The likelihood of injury and the likelihood of not having the best possible outcome to the situation increase. You need to remind yourself that others depend on you and try to overcome your natural emotions to a stressful situation – fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, depression – all of these emotions inhibit clear thinking.
So, the first thing to do when faced with a survival situation – flood waters rising, warnings that a storm is imminent, fire or smoke alarm – STOP. This is an acronym for Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan. Give yourself a few moments to gather your thoughts and plan your escape (time permitting, this may be a few minutes – in a dire situation, it may only be a few seconds). Take a deep breath, look around you and do a quick assessment of your environment, your situation, and your options – now tell yourself, “It will be okay”. Think about what you need to do to get out and get those you love out. Plan your next move. Then, get ready, grab your pets, and go!
For more information on the attitude of survival, check out this interview with Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When a Disaster Strikes—and Why. http://
Knowing how to do pet CPR can save an animal’s life and allow you time to reach veterinary care. Pet CPR courses are offered periodically through the American Red Cross. In addition, you can ask your veterinarian to review CPR technique with you during your pet’s next visit.
Similar to human CPR, there are certain guidelines that are as simple as ABC: A=Airway, B=Breathing, C=Circulation…. However, first things first: Before rushing in, check the scene and make sure it is safe for you to assist the animal – Don’t become a victim. Next, check if the animal is conscious. If it is, you will have to proceed with caution so that you do not get bitten. Lay the animal on its side to proceed.
A – Check if the animal has a patent airway and is able to breathe on its own. Carefully place your hand in front of its nose and mouth to feel for breathing. If the animal is not breathing, pull the tongue out and make sure nothing is caught in its throat. Even if the animal is not conscious, it still may reflexively bite down. Move the head to straighten the neck and open the airway.
B – Hold the animals mouth closed with your hand and breathe into its nose until you see the side of the chest rising. Give a second breath. If the chest does not rise, try again. If it still doesn’t rise, there may be something further down the throat blocking the airway. Check the mouth and throat again. If the animal is small enough, you can lift it head down with its back against your body and give a few sharp squeezes to the abdomen to try to force any lodged item out (Animal Heimlich Maneuver). Lay the animal back down and check the mouth and throat again. Repeat the breathing technique.
C – The heart is more easily felt from the left side of the chest cavity behind the elbow of the left foreleg. It is difficult to check for pulses elsewhere. If you do not detect a heartbeat, place one hand under the chest cavity for support. Press down on the heart with the other hand 15 times. You are not pressing as hard as you would for an adult person – the compressions should be ½ inch for tiny dogs, 1 inch for small dogs, ½ inch to 1 inch for cats, and 1 ½ inches for larger dogs. For smaller pocket pets such as rodents, just use your thumb and forefinger on either side of the chest instead of your two hands. You will need to pump 80 -120 beats per minute for larger animals and 100 -150 beats per minute for smaller pets.
Repeat steps C and B until the pet begins breathing or you reach a veterinary hospital or determine that the animal has passed. Don’t wait for a real emergency to find out where the nearest Animal Emergency Hospital is located.