Actions After a Disaster
Disasters are often catastrophic events and can overwhelm a community. After an emergency it is important to re-establish your priorities. The first priority should be the safety of people, followed by the safety of animals and property. If you are safe, you can do more to help your animals. This is similar to the instructions given in the safety briefing on an airplane: “Put your oxygen mask on yourself before you put one on your child.”
Entering a Disaster Area
• It is important to follow instructions from first responders or other public officials. Don’t go back into an area that has not been approved. To enter prematurely could put your life in danger as well as first responders that need to rescue you and your animals.
• Plan your route before going back. Find out what roads are open or closed. You may need to take alternate routes. Even traveling on roads that are open can be hazardous. Anticipate debris, downed trees and flooding on the roads. Drive slowly and use extra caution as you proceed.
• Travel with caution and be alert for any hazards that may occur on the road.
• Use caution when you enter your property. Debris may be present that could harm you and your animals.
• Examine your property for downed electric lines, fallen trees, and contaminated water that could present real dangers to your animals. Snakes or other wildlife could be present that could be harmful to you and your animals.
• If you did not turn off the electricity before leaving, look for signs of damage to electrical lines and circuit breakers. Contact your utility company if you suspect damage or need advice on when you can safely turn on your electrical equipment. Never turn on the electricity in areas that have been flooded before having the system checked by an electrician or by the electric company. Gas lines can also sustain damage and it is good to have them checked by the gas utility company.
Your Animals’ Behavior After a Disaster
• Disasters can take an emotional toll on your animals and they can appear anxious and nervous.
• After a disaster, familiar landmarks and smells might be missing and your pet can be easily confused get lost, or go into hiding. Be careful allowing your pets outdoors unattended and off-leash. Reptiles, birds, and small pocket pets should be kept in their enclosures unless supervised.
• Emergencies can lead pets to display unexpected or uncharacteristic behaviors. Otherwise well-behaved animals may become aggressive and defensive after a major disruption in their lives. Your pet may not return to more typical behaviors for several weeks.
• Take special care of your pets. Your home may be very different after a disaster. This can be very distressing for your pet.
• Allow your pet plenty of time to rest and get used to new surroundings. Provide familiar toys, bedding and routines.
• Be patient with your pet after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation.
• Examine any of your pet’s food that was left behind. If it is wet or smells different, do not feed it. Mold or other toxins may be present that could harm your pet.
• Make sure the water at your home is safe to drink. If it is not safe for you to drink, it will not be safe for your pets.
• After a disaster there may be pools of water present on your property. Prevent your pets from drinking this water as it may be contaminated and harm your pet.
• After a disaster some pets may become picky eaters. They still may be nervous after change of surroundings or change of routine. Have patience with them and offer them different types of pet food or small quantities of human or baby food. If you are still concerned that your pet is not eating or there are other behavioral changes, please contact your veterinarian.
If You Find Someone Else’s Pet After a Disaster
• Use extreme caution when approaching unknown or frightened animals after a disaster. It is better to work in pairs, if possible, and have someone help handle the animal.
• It is best to isolate this animal from your pets until it is returned to the owner.
• Contact your local authorities to inform them you have found someone else’s animal.