Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Disaster and Emergency Planning for Dogs

On Sunday, severe and "explosive" storms went through much of the Midwest.  Last I heard, the National Weather Service had confirmed 25 tornadoes touched down in Indiana alone.  It was scary stuff.

We were scheduled to attend a family gathering that day, minus the dogs.  When I called my mom that morning to confirm it was still on, she insisted everyone come.

Prior to leaving our house, we set up crates in the basement, and left the dogs there.  I also made arrangements with our awesome neighbors, so that they could use our basement with their dogs while we were gone if the need arose, as their house does not have a basement.

Getting the dogs down the stairs was a chore, as the basement stairs are open, and all three were fearful of falling through.  Fortunately, our immediate area had only thunderstorms and high winds (in November?!?!), and we were unscathed.  Once the "all-clear" was issued, we brought the dogs up from the basement, which was even more difficult than getting them down there. 

After the storms rolled through.

Ignore my scary basement.  It's an old house.

Bruce proved to be the most difficult, with it taking us an hour and a half to convince him to come up the stairs.  Bribes included cheese, meat, and squeaky toys.

About one year ago, a home exploded on the south side of Indianapolis, less than five miles from our current house.  I remember hearing the boom, and my house actually shook.

A few homes were completely destroyed, and several damaged beyond repair, as this occurred in a subdivision.  Hundreds of people and their pets were evacuated.

This event initially prompted me to come up with an emergency plan for my dogs, and this past weekend's storms only reinforced it.

The ASPCA and Redrover.org have some nice lists, and some of my ideas are the same as theirs.

At the very least, I believe all animals should have a well fitting collar or harness with clear ID tags that include a cell-phone number.  My dogs are all microchipped, but I know some feel microchipping is "dangerous" and unnecessary.  If the unthinkable occurs, and you are separated from your pets, these are the most successful ways that they are returned to their owners.

A Way to Let Rescuers Know You Have Pets
Window stickers are widely available that allow people to indicate how many of and what species of animals are present in the home.

Containment in the Event of Evacuation
After the home explosion last year, I thought long and hard on what would happen if we were to be evacuated from our homes.  Short (6 feet or less), non-retractable leashes must be immediately available for all dogs.  Neeko and Faolan, while stressed, would probably be ok with all the chaos.  Bruce would not be.  My dogs are all to large to put into a crate and carry.  Because of Bruce's issues, I purchased a basket muzzle for him, and desensitized him to it.  It is my job to protect my dogs, and if protecting them means preventing them from harming a person or another dog, that is what I will do.

If one has small dogs or cats, plastic sided or soft, portable kennels that are easily carried are widely found.

If a Tornado is Eminent
Go to your basement, or most interior, windowless room.  We set up ahead of time, and now know that this is probably not something we could do in seconds, given how much difficulty each dog gave us.  Involve your neighbors.  Have a plan, and contact your friends and family to ensure everyone and all pets are accounted for and safe.

A Place to Stay if Your Home is Uninhabitable
This could be with family or friends.  But keep in mind that friends and family who say you are welcome do not always necessarily mean your large or multiple pets are welcome as well.  So clarify.  Many hotels are pet friendly, but require dogs be crated, which is another good reason to invest in crates.  It is good to call around and see if there are limits on the number of pets, or size limits.

In the event one cannot afford a hotel, it is important to have worked out details with friends and family if you and/or your pets can stay with them.  I have several people who are willing to temporarily take on Neeko or Faolan in the event of an emergency, but not so much Bruce, which is understandable.  Bruce and myself could temporarily stay with my parents, and crates and gates would be used to keep him from harming their two much smaller dogs because of his stress and anxiety.

If Your Home is Safe, but You have No Power, No Water, No way to Get Out.
I'm not going to lie.  Watching American Blackout on Nat Geo scared the crap out of me. It also made me realize we are unprepared.  While I am not advocating or encouraging anyone to be an extreme/doomsday prepper, having a little backup of some basic supplies is a good idea.

I feed raw, and typically have at least three weeks worth of food on hand.  A power outage in the winter time wouldn't affect this, but in the summer, the meat would start to go bad after a few days.  While dogs can eat "off" meat, I would not feel comfortable feeding them something super funky.  For this reason, I have purchased a couple of large bags of high quality kibble.  When the expiration date approaches, I will donate these, and buy more.

Water is vital.  Having ample water for each living thing is crucial.  Keep a few cases, or gallons of water as backup.  I have actually purchased LifeStraws for the humans.

Does anyone have any other suggestions or ideas/hints for me or others on being prepared for our pets in the event of an emergency or disaster? 


  1. I'll admit: The whole time we were in Indiana, our whole plan was "go to the basement." We didn't have any other steps in place. Not smart. When we moved to Louisiana, though, I got super serious about emergency planning in the event of a hurricane. It sounds like you have an excellent plan in place! One suggestion about the bags of kibble, in case of an evacuation, I was thinking I didn't want to carry all that (or risk it getting wet) so I got cans, which last a little longer and are a lighter load.

  2. Your basement is kind of scary, but those are some great tips. I'm so glad I live somewhere that doesn't have extreme weather.

  3. Good advice! We need to practice on our cellar steps too!

  4. This is great information. It is very important for all pet owners to have an emergency plan.

  5. Oh, this is PAWSOME info!! It is always good to be reminded of all the details we might forget in an emergency. We don't have a basement...Ma wishes we did..it looks like a good place to shelter.
    Ruby ♥

  6. When I lived in North Dakota, I was always a little worried about tornadoes because we did not have a basement. Luckily we never actually had a tornado.

    My husband and I have a fair amount of survival gear ready in case of an emergency, but like most people we could do a lot better. One thing I'd like to have ready is a dog backpack for Ace with a first aid kit for him and some other essentials such as his vet info, a lightweight emergency leash, some dehydrated food and that sort of thing. Something I can just grab and have everything for him.

  7. Those storms hit even closer to us, we were under a tornado warning even. It looked to me like most of the families had almost no time to take cover. That's what worries me the most, if you don't have enough time, seeing the one family dog pulled from the rubble 30 hrs later I just don't know if there was anything that could have been done in advance.

  8. I'm glad you're ok!

    Our biggest evacuation danger is wildfires. We've been evacuated 3X. We've learned to contain the dogs in a closed room while we quickly pack our supplies that we will take when we leave. As we prepared for one evacuation, R slipped out the door as we were packing. With all the helicopters and airplanes overhead plus smoke in the air, he freaked out, refusing to come to us. We eventually managed to lure him to us but we learned a really important lesson! Don't let your dogs get loose in a super charged environment like a natural disaster.

    I'm glad you had a plan and carried it out. Whew.

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  10. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.


Thanks for the howls!!