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Earthquake? Here's an evacuation plan for pets

Plan for natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, and try to provide pets a safe and secure environment

Keep a disaster kit close to the exit of your home. (iStockphoto)

By Dr Nameeta Nadkarni

LAST PUBLISHED 06.04.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

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Last month, strong tremors jolted parts of north India. The country is no stranger to natural calamities like earthquakes and floods. Pets, pet owners and first responders may all be at risk if pets are not included in evacuation plans. For, each tragedy that puts you in danger also puts your pet in danger.

The first thing to do is to be prepared for the kinds of disasters your area may be vulnerable to. Make sure your pet’s immunisations are up-to-date at all times. Their microchipping serves as a reliable form of identification. Create collars and tags with your contact information in case a disaster separates you and your pet. Location monitoring devices like the Apple AirTag can be fastened to its harness or collar.

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Assemble an evacuation or disaster kit and keep it close to the exit of your home. It should include food and water for your pet for at least a week, easy-to-transport beds, blankets, toys, carriers and strong leashes. In case you have cats, keep some pillowcases. These are useful for removing cats safely from hiding spots. Keep a litter tray and some litter supplies. Keep a copy of your pet’s medical records as well as emergency phone numbers, including those of your veterinarian.

A first-aid kit should be at hand for everyday emergencies as well as for disaster preparedness. It should include gauze, bandage rolls, adhesive tape, tweezers, scissors, hydrogen peroxide, digital thermometers, gloves, antiseptic solution, muzzles and medication. You should also learn CPR, not just for humans but also for pets.

Plan for a disaster. Make a list of friends and relatives who can care for your pet or offer shelter. Find hotels, boarding houses or shelters nearby that accept pets and keep their contact information ready to transport your pet there in case you need to flee. If there’s an emergency when you are not at home, you should also find a neighbour or someone who lives nearby who could come home and take care of/rescue your pets.

Find safe areas in your house where you and your pet can seek shelter if there is an earthquake. This area ought to be away from windows, and, if at all feasible, in a room without bulky furniture or other potential trip-and-fall dangers. If you live in a flood-prone area, choose a higher section of your home and keep it clear of junk.

Every now and again, practise evacuation and emergency drills with family and pets. Crate training to make your pet comfortable is important. Train your pet to come when called and familiarise it with the identified safe spots. Make sure to practise swiftly and effectively, putting your pet on a lead or packing it into a carrier.

Bring your pet indoors when disaster strikes. Close the doors to prevent it from escaping. If there’s an earthquake, crate your pet to prevent it from bolting and keep it safe from falling objects. If a carrier is not readily available, use a lead to keep it close to you. Take your pet with you if you have to leave the house.

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If you and your pet are outdoors during an earthquake, get to an open location far from trees, walls or other structures and lie down until the shaking stops. Pull over to the side of the road if you are driving. If your vehicle is shaking, wait until the tremors stop to get out.

Exercise caution. There could be risks like debris, broken glass and toxins that could hurt your pet. Keep an eye out for injuries or symptoms of discomfort in your pet and get medical help right away if necessary. After a calamity, your pet’s behaviour could alter drastically, turning hostile or defensive. Pets may become disoriented or confused, especially if the disaster has hit smell markers that help them locate and navigate in their home. Giving them a safe and secure environment is crucial. Go back to a normal routine as quickly as possible.

To sum up, managing your pet during a natural disaster calls for foresight, quick thinking and preparation. A disaster safety checklist is available at www.cdc.gov to help you stay one step ahead.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.