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Make an evacuation plan to save family pets when disaster strikes

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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It's only too easy to imagine: a forest fire is cresting over Mingus Mountain. The order to evacuate has been given. Hopefully, with the Doce Fire and the Yarnell Hill tragedy fresh in our minds, we have all considered forming an evacuation plan.

When setting up an evacuation plan, it's important for all family members to be present to discuss all of the ways to exit the home. Creating meeting spots, both outside the home for home disasters, and outside the city for large-scale disasters, is a must. Each family member should be charged with an age-appropriate task. Practice makes perfect, and in the "fog of war" drilling is essential to ensuring a successful evacuation.

The next step is deciding what to do with the family pets. All too often pets are abandoned as families rush to collect their valuables and make a hasty retreat. Sometimes this forced abandonment results being unprepared. Sometimes this tragedy occurs because people mistakenly believe that their pets can fend for themselves. Other times, the unanticipated evacuation happens so quickly that people are told to collect their valuables but leave their pets behind.

Let's assume your family has made a plan to evacuate. After considering valuables and heirlooms, many turn their attention to the critters gazing trustingly from their place on the floor. In this situation, the first step is always animal safety. No matter how tame your dog, cat, bird or other family pet may appear, times of high stress can make any animal unpredictable.

Having proper cages or crates for each animal is a necessity. This simple restraint maintains their safety, protecting pets from one other in case stress causes their instincts to take over. Each pet's cage should be placed in a convenient location that makes it easy to pick up and carry. Having a bag that contains feeding dishes, leashes, extra collars and identification tags, important papers, copies of vet records and medications will make pet evacuation much more effective and efficient.

Making copies of important records for both family members and pets is a valuable investment. You may have to cross state lines during an evacuation, and some states require proof of rabies vaccinations for pets to legally enter the jurisdiction. Boarding facilities will also require proof that your animal is up-to-date on all vaccines, especially rabies. If you need to see a new vet, having your records handy will be very helpful indeed.

When evacuating your family, it's important to make sure that there is food and water available for all members of the family, including your pets.

Once on the road, there are various shelter options: hotels, the homes of family or friends, or evacuation centers set up by organizations like the Red Cross. There are also several organizations that set up emergency sites specifically to take in family pets during times of evacuation. These organizations house, feed and care for a variety of animals, and their close proximity to evacuee shelters allows families to visit their pets as often as needed.

Yavapai County is fortunate to have the support of Animal Disaster Services, which has been instrumental in keeping pets safe and cared for during local disasters. Area humane societies also spring into action to house temporarily homeless pets during times of crisis. During the forest fires that raged near the Prescott area, the Adopt For Life Center for Animals stood ready to house evacuees' animals if the need arose.

For further information on how to protect your family and set up an evacuation plan, contact the organizations and websiteslisted below:

American Red Cross American Red Cross: Prepare Your Home and Family

American Red Cross: Pet Evacuation Animal Disaster Services: ASPCA: Disaster Prepared-ness The Verde Valley Humane Society Adopt for Life Center will host an ice cream social from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 11. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Paws Around Town was written this week by Amber A. Brown, volunteer for the Adopt For Life Center for Animals in Cottonwood.

All too often pets are abandoned as families rush to collect their valuables and make a hasty retreat.

Amber A. Brown

Volunteer for the Adopt For Life Center for Animals in Cottonwood

Copyright 2013 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: July 31, 2013

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