Disaster Preparedness: A Primer

by Jo Ann White

As the height of the hurricane season approaches, the mind of a Florida resident turns to preparations for our most common natural disaster. However, this list applies to ALL dog owners everywhere, whether your part of the world is prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, fires, mudslides, or other difficulties. Unlike hurricanes, many disasters may strike without warning, so advance preparations are necessary all year round, wherever you may live.

1. If your Shih Tzu requires a specific diet or special medications, be sure to keep a two-week supply of both on hand. If you wait until after a disaster strikes, or a hurricane is a day away from landfall, supplies may have run out, or you may not be able to get to the pharmacy or veterinarian. Extra supplies of flea and tick medication are also useful, because heavy rain may flood areas where these pests live and drive them closer to houses on higher ground.

2. On a similar note, it is a good idea to always keep a two-week supply of food and water for your pet on hand.

3. Lay in a supply of chucks or piddle pads too. Even if your Shih Tzu is outdoors trained, you may not be able to exercise him outdoors during the storm or if the yard floods. A puppy pen with a floor or exercise pen is useful for this purpose, especially if you must evacuate to a shelter. Keeping a battery-powered fan handy and a supply of large size “blue packs” in your freezer will help to keep your Shih Tzu cool if the power goes out.

4. Have your dog tattooed or microchipped, and register this information with the AKC Canine Animal Recovery (CAR) (www.akccar.org). If your dog has already been registered with AKC CAR, be sure to update this information if you have moved. In case your Shih Tzu is lost during a natural disaster, microchip data and information about where the pet was found and where it has been moved will be posted to a federal database so that you can locate your lost pet more easily.

5. If you live in an area where you might have to evacuate because of a storm, plan for this well ahead of time. Keep your gas tank full. Learn where shelters that accept pets are located and what you will need to bring with you and be required to do. If you will travel to another area, make a list of hotels there that will allow pets with contact information so that you can make a reservation before you leave home. Be sure that family and friends are aware of your plans and provide them with emergency contact information.

6. Stay aware of news and weather reports at all times, so you will have as much advance notice as possible of an approaching disaster. While some disasters may strike without warning, others provide a little time for you to prepare. If you have such warning and have multiple dogs, be sure they are inside in a place where you can reach them immediately, and that they have collars on that carry up to date information about how to reach both you and your veterinarian or clinic.

7. In case you are not home when disaster strikes, be sure that you have a pet sticker on a front window to alert emergency workers. In such a case, you should also have made arrangements with a neighbor or nearby friend to evacuate your animals if needed, and provided them with your contact information and a predetermined location where they can meet you with the dogs after the evacuation.

8. Prepare an evacuation kit. It should include such things as leashes, crates, dog food, bottled water, the name and number of your veterinarian, copies of your dog’s medical records, and basic first aid supplies. You should also have on hand photos of your dog and any special instructions about feeding and medications in case you become separated.

Disasters can strike anyone without warning. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to begin preparation!