Plan now to protect your animals in a disaster

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Plan now to protect your animals in a disaster

Post by ThreeperMan on Tue 02 Feb 2010, 10:34

Plan now to protect your animals in a disaster

The terrible destruction in Haiti is a chilling reminder that disasters can strike anytime and anywhere. From earthquakes and hurricanes to blizzards and tornadoes, nearly every area of the United States is at risk of experiencing some type of natural disaster. It's vital to make emergency plans now to protect all members of our families, including our animals.

Animals aren't any better equipped to survive a disaster than humans are. They may be even more likely to suffer and perish, since initial rescue efforts usually focus on getting vital food, water and medical care to human survivors. According to news reports from Haiti, packs of stray dogs are scavenging for what little food is available, and many of the country's 5 million farmed animals are in need of food and veterinary care. Nearly two weeks after the earthquake, animal rescue teams are just now gaining access to the disaster zone.

Animals depend on their guardians for survival. That's why, whatever you do, it's crucial never to leave your animals behind during an evacuation. Even if your home isn't damaged, downed power lines and impassable roads may prevent you from returning home for weeks, leaving animals stranded without food or water.

After Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, some brave people chose to stay behind and risk their lives rather than evacuate without their beloved companions. But countless dogs, cats and other animals were left stranded on rooftops, clinging to trees and frantically treading water, terrified and dehydrated.

Following Katrina, PETA's teams of trained animal-emergency staffers spent two weeks breaking down doors, crawling through filth, wading through noxious floodwaters and coaxing more than 300 traumatized animals to safety. But for many animals, rescue came too late. At one home, our team found the rotting remains of a pit bull locked inside a cage on the kitchen table without any food or water.

Please don't let your animals end up like this. Check with hotels (many waive no-animals policies during emergencies), relatives and friends to see if you and your animals can stay there until the emergency is over. Even if you have to camp or sleep in your car temporarily, your animals are still better off with you than left in an empty house. However, never leave animals unattended in a parked car. Even on a mild day, cars heat up quickly, and animals can suffer and die from heatstroke in minutes.

Always make sure your animals are up to date on their rabies vaccinations and are wearing collars with identification tags. It's a good idea to keep an emergency kit for each of your animals ready to go at a moment's notice. Fill the kit with leashes, bowls, towels, blankets, litter pans, litter and at least a week's supply of food and medications.

If you have no choice but to leave your animal companions behind, do everything you can to ensure their survival. Leave them inside the house, with access to upper floors and at least a 10 days' supply of dry food and water. Dehydration is a major threat, so fill multiple sinks, bowls, pans and plastic containers with water. Rescue workers may be able to save your animals if you cannot return home, so put signs in your windows and on your front door indicating how many and what kind of animals are inside.

While it may be hard to imagine that a disaster as terrible as Haiti's earthquake could strike the places we call home, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. The situation in Haiti is bleak for all living beings and is a sad reminder that animals are often overlooked following a disaster. Making emergency preparations now will ensure that those we care about will have the best possible outcome if the worst does happen here. Material things are replaceable, but best friends aren't.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Virginia -- Ed.

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)

By Lindsay Pollard-Post/People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2010/02/03/201002030006.asp

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