In a disaster situation the priority first and foremost is to keep ourselves and our family safe, so we plan and prepare for any possible danger. Pets are part of the family and need to be included in the planning process.
Animals (particularly dogs) can actually be a valuable resource for survival. They have an ability to sense danger long before humans and will alert you to possible threats. Large breed dogs in particular are also an excellent deterrent and can provide protection from unwanted guests. If you are bugging out they can carry packs of gears (there are many different styles/sizes of dog backpacks available) and if it is cold outside they are also an excellent heat source. If nothing else, dogs provide companionship and comfort which is needed even more in a disaster situation.
However, if you are wanting your dog to be a valuable resource you need to make sure you put the time in to train him/her. At the very least make sure your dog is house trained and knows basic commands, taking a beginner’s obedience class would be ideal. Certain breeds also excel at advanced training like agility, hunting, schutzhund (protection). Teaching your dog to be quiet on command is also very important. A dog that is properly trained is an asset, a dog that is unruly is a liability, especially in a crisis situation.
Also make sure that your pet is up to date with their vaccinations (rabies, etc) and keep documentation on hand. If you need to board your dog in a disaster proof of vaccinations is one of the first things you will be asked for. It is also important to be aware that not all shelters like Red Cross will even accept pets due to health and safety regulations, so make sure you investigate alternatives before disaster strikes. You can look into pet friendly hotels or also ask at your local SPCA.
Like people, animals can also get nervous and stressed when in an unfamiliar environment or situation and may act unpredictably or out of character. In extreme situations they may try to escape and can get injured or lost. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag in case you do get separated and always keep your pet on a leash or have a carrier or crate available to put them in. Putting familiar toys/blankets in the crate with them will make them feel more relaxed.
Prior to an emergency have a good supply of the food and treats your pet is familiar with (cans or dry kibble depending on what your dog is used to eating). In a long term crisis situation you can also make and preserve your own dog food, there are many nutritional recipes available but we will save that for another article. Collapsible pet dishes for food and water are great because they are lightweight and don’t take up much space.
Preparing a first aid kit for your pet is also a good idea in case of emergency, you can purchase one or make your own tailored to your pet’s needs. If your pet has ongoing health problems your kit should contain all medication your pet requires including heartworm and flea/tick prevention.
Prepping your pet for an emergency isn’t difficult, like everything else it just requires some planning. It will be well worth the effort knowing you have done everything possible to keep your 4 legged family member safe and sound if/when disaster strikes!