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Getting Your Pet Ready for Disasters



Missouri flooding

Photo © Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Natural disasters happen everywhere, anytime, and often without much warning. Technology is continuing to improve to allow us more time to prepare and evacuate for natural disasters but that time is still limited. During this stressful event it is important to remember that our exotic pet family members need not be forgotten.

What Not To Do

Many people leave their pets behind during a disaster thinking they will just come back and get them or someone else will be on their way soon to rescue them. This unfortunately couldn't be farther from the truth.

It is often impossible to know when you will be allowed by authorities to return to your house. It may be a few days or it could be months. And don't expect someone will just find your pets for you. Resources are limited, sometimes houses are not accessible, and it would be impossible to try and rescue every little pet every person owns.

Hamsters, snakes, and many other exotic pets can also easily escape their enclosures if any damage is done to their enclosures, or worse yet, be crushed or trapped in their own cage.

These situations result in a lost, injured, or killed. Therefore it is always best to take your exotic pets with you when disaster strikes. They cannot fend for themselves. At the very least, and if you are 100% unable to take them anywhere, give your pet plenty of food and water and make sure you have a window sticker identifying how many and what kinds of pets are in your house for rescue personnel to see. The ASPCA offers a free window decal along with a poison control magnet on their website.

Where To Take Pets

Not all shelters and facilities that take in people, dogs, and cats accept exotic pets. Find out in advance who is able to board your exotic pet if needed. Research areas nearby and even a short distance away in case your immediate area is severely affected and the local facilities close. Ask if the center takes in exotics, not just dogs and cats. If your pet has any vaccine records be sure to bring them with you when you bring in your pet. These should be a part of the "go-bag" for your pet in the case of immediate evacuation.

Your exotic pet veterinarian will be a useful resource in finding boarding facilities around you or may even take them in themselves. Family and friends outside your immediate area are other people to check with in advance to have a place to bring your exotic pets to, even if they can't take you in.

What To Bring Along

Prepare a "go-bag" in advance with the necessary supplies needed for your exotic pet. For a list of suggestions, check out what to include in exotic pet go bags.

How To Transport Your Pet

A carrier, small cage, box, or even a pillow case for snakes should be set aside for those last minute travel needs. Clean bedding and food for pocket pets, a hot water bottle for reptiles, a bed for foxes, raccoons, and similar animals, or just a towel to allow your pet to rest or hide in should be included in the carrying container. This will keep your pet comfortable, allow him to hide, stay warm, and provide something to soak up any accidents during the evacuation.

After A Disaster

Pets may be disoriented, behave differently, and take awhile to get used to their new surroundings. If a major disaster has left a home unrecognizable, with down power lines, flooding, fires, tornadoes, or a similar devastating situation, be sure to keep your pet on a leash or in your arms at all times when returning home. The sights and smells of your pet's familiar surroundings have changed and if they used to be able to roam about your yard they may now get lost or disoriented.

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