The SPCA for Monterey County was the very first animal welfare agency in the United States to partner with the American Red Cross and shelter pets adjacent to human evacuation shelters during disasters. During the 2008 Basin Complex Fire and the Pfeiffer Fire in 2013, over 500 animals were evacuated and sheltered.
While the commitment to help pets and livestock during disasters is as strong as ever, as a pet owner, there are certain steps that you can take in order to make the process easier. Please head over to the SPCA for Monterey County's Disaster Preparedness page for information on things like pet-specific preparedness kits, Emergency Pet Alert Cards, Monterey County hotels that accept pets, and general ways to better prepare yourself as a pet owner to cope with disasters.
Ines de Pablo, founder of Wag'n Pet Emergency Management, gives the following "to-do list" for pet owners -
1. Create an emergency contact list. Start with friends or family members who live nearby and can reach you or your pets quickly. Make sure they have keys, necessary codes or other information to access your home, grab the pets and evacuate. "For every Plan A, I have a Plan E," de Pablo says. "Most Plan A's don't happen, so Plan C has to be just as good."
2. Make an emergency kit. Fill a backpack with at least two weeks' worth of food for your pets and plan for at least a gallon of water per day, per pet. If your animal eats wet food, then it will consume less water. Click here for the All Hazards Pet Preparedness Checklist and Evacuation Notice.
3. Stock the basics in an emergency bag. Be sure to include a leash (for dogs and cats), a collar with identification information, a harness and a muzzle, even if your pet is the sweetest in the land. "If an animal rescue person tries to pick up your pet, you don't want your pet biting," she says. "Pets pick up stress, just like people in an emergency, and they can behave in a way that they normally don't."
4. Invest in sturdy pet carriers. Whether your pet goes to a relative or an emergency shelter, it needs a safe place to stay. Try a collapsible crate that is large enough to hold food and water bowls, and allows your pet to stand and turn around. Don't forget to mark it with contact information. It also helps to include a few favorite toys or bedding.
5. Carry copies of documentation. Grab a waterproof container and use it to hold copies of your pet's vital information. The container should hold pictures of your pet, as well as a list of medications, allergies, vaccination records, a rabies certificate, and disaster contacts — inside and outside of the disaster area. When Johnnie Richey was killed in the Joplin tornado, his 9-year-old cocker spaniel was eventually reunited with the owner's sister, Kerri Simms. "Even though her brother is gone, she could retrieve his pet and have a little bit of her brother through that pet. That's why it's so important that you have pictures and out-of-area contacts."
6. Carry photos that show you with your pet. To alleviate any confusion when it's time to recover your pet from an emergency facility, be sure to carry photos that show you and your pet together. Attach those photos as proof of ownership on your pet's crate.
7. Practice makes perfect. Take a weekend and rehearse your emergency evacuation plan. It should include finding alternate exit routes for your neighborhood, just in case a downed tree or other issue creates an obstacle.
8. Don't wait for the second or third warning. Act as soon as you hear a warning. "When pets sense urgency, they hide and you lose valuable time trying to find them," she says. Keep leashes, collars and crates ready at a moment's notice.