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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2014

Properly prepped pets: Keeping Fido safe through the storm

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

According to the National Hurricane Center, each year, millions of pets are killed or left homeless by natural disasters.

Members of Joint Base Langley-Eustis sponsoring family members are encouraged to remain vigilant during hurricane season and are reminded to adequately prepare for a key member of their family--their pet.

Whether or not Service members decide to stay at home or evacuate to a safer location, they will need to prepare a plan in advance, when planning evacuation, it is important to remember, if it's not safe for a person, it's not safe for animals.

Prepare an emergency kit
Have extra pet supplies on hand and have items packed and ready to go in case of an emergency evacuation. Supplies should be stored in a sturdy container, which can be easily accessed and carried. The American Red Cross recommends emergency kits contain:

- Waterproof container and a first-aid kit

- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure they cannot escape

- Current photos of pets in case they get lost

- Food, drinkable water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and a manual can opener

- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems and the name and number of the pet's veterinarian in case they are fostered or boarded

- A pet bed or toys if easily transportable

In addition to preparing an emergency kit, the National Weather Service suggests pet owners ensure their companions are up-to-date on all vaccinations and have proper identification tags or microchips at all times.

Purchase a Rescue Alert Sticker
By purchasing and using a Rescue Alert Sticker, Service members will be able to inform rescue workers that there are animals in the home. The sticker should be placed in a visible area, like the front door, and should include the types and number of pets in the home, and a number to the pet's veterinarian. If the member is forced to evacuate with their pets, they should write "evacuated" across the sticker to avoid wasting rescue workers' time.

Have an evacuation plan
According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, pet owners should determine where their pets would shelter during an evacuation. They also advise checking with family and friends, veterinarians or local kennels that offer sheltering services. After choosing a shelter, owners should find out from pet shelters what documentation they require and include it in the pet's emergency supplies kit.
If a military member decides to go to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Pet owners should call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for themselves and their pets. Local emergency managers can be contacted to inquire about pet-friendly shelters in the area.

Re-familiarize pets
After it is deemed safe to return home, pets should be leashed-walked until they become re-oriented to their area. According to the National Weather Service, "familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost." The animal's behavior should also be closely monitored as pets may become aggressive or defensive due to trauma.

For more information about disaster preparedness for pets, visit the following websites:

- National Weather Service

- The American Red Cross

- The National Hurricane Center