When disaster strikes, don’t leave pets out: CEMA

Pet evacuation supplies after the 2013 flood in High River, Alta.
Pet evacuation supplies after the 2013 flood in High River, Alta. Courtesy: RCMP

If floods or fires strike, include your furry friends in your emergency plans.

That’s the message from the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) this spring.

“Calgary is well-known for severe weather and we’re coming into those seasons where we’re going to get some storms,” said Sue Henry, CEMA’s deputy chief, on Wednesday. “It’s a great reminder for some people as they’re starting to spring clean and they’re starting to organize things for the coming summer months, to think about how can your pets be included in those plans.”

The organization helps co-ordinate large responses to different emergencies and disruptions in the city — everything from harsh, relentless weather events to power outages.

“Pets are part of everybody’s family and anyone that has a pet knows how important they are to that family structure and connection,” Henry said.

Story continues below advertisement

“If you have a plan for your pet before something happens, it allows you to take care of them during that emergency and it reduces the stress for all of the family members as well as the pet itself.”

Fort McMurray lost pet
The Fort McMurray SPCA shared this photo of a pet lost in the region due to the wildfires. The cat’s owner has been located. Courtesy: Fort McMurray SPCA/Facebook

The Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016 were the most recent large-scale evacuation CEMA responded to.

“One individual arrived with a snake in a box, so it’s really everything all across the board, and we will do our best to keep families together with their pets and get the supports that they need,” Henry said.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire highlights animal care gaps during natural disasters

To keep animals safe, the organization recommends:

Story continues below advertisement

Henry recommends that when you’re assembling your family kit, it’s a good time to consider your pets’ needs. Seventy-two hours is the industry standard timeframe you should be prepared for, Henry explained, because that lets people use their own resources to take care of themselves while allowing first responders to focus on those who need the most help immediately after an emergency.

A pet emergency kit should include:

  • a crate or carrier
  • a leash or harness
  • an ID tag and collar
  • food and water for at least 72 hours (four litres per day for an average dog and one litre per day for an average cat)
  • bowls
  • a can opener
  • newspapers, paper towels, plastic bags, litter and a litter box
  • medications, dosage and veterinarian’s contact information
  • a pet file (including recent photos, copies of licenses/vaccination records, your emergency numbers, contact information for friends who could house your pet)
  • a pet first-aid kit
  • blankets and toys

The best way to protect your pet in an emergency is to bring it with you, according to CEMA. Most evacuation shelters will only accept service animals. Make a list of where your pet can be taken in case you need to evacuate.

Story continues below advertisement

That list could include:

  • hotels that accept animals, even during emergencies
  • boarding centres and animal shelters
  • animal clinics
  • family and friends

During an emergency, make sure you:

  • keep your pet inside during severe weather, since animals are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and often isolate themselves when scared
    • never leave a pet outside or tethered during a storm
  • separate cats and dogs and keep smaller pets like hamsters away from larger animals because stress can lead to unusual behaviour
  • keep newspaper inside for hygiene purposes
  • feed your pet wet food to reduce the amount of water it may need
  • try to take your pet with you if ordered to evacuate

If you must leave your pets behind:

  • do not tether or cage them
  • leave a sign in the window and a note on the door indicating what animals are inside
  • provide water and food in timed dispensers