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Caring for Pets in Times of Disaster

CVMA Press Release

SACRAMENTO, Calif., /PRNewswire/ -- It's every pet owner's worst nightmare: a wildfire breaks out and in the panic and confusion, you can't locate and rescue your animal. Each year, hundreds of pets are lost during natural disasters, and many more are never reunited with their owners due to the ensuing chaos and a lack of proper identification. Whether you own a horse or a house pet, having an emergency plan for their care is essential in case of a fire, flood, earthquake, hazardous spill or other disaster. Particularly during the summer fire season, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) urges all pet owners to be prepared and plan ahead.

"No one wants to be worried about their pets during a natural disaster or emergency. The best insurance that your pet-and you-will be safe is to have an emergency plan in place and ready to go," said Peter Weinstein, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association.

Here are the CVMA's tips to ensure your pets are safely cared for during an emergency.

For dogs, cats and other small pets:

* If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. You may be forced to stay away longer than you anticipate, leaving your animals defenseless.

* For health reasons, most emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter if they provide emergency care for animals during a disaster. Find out ahead of time which motels and hotels in your area allow pets.

* Be sure your pets are properly identified, ideally with both microchips and identification tags. A microchip under the skin can be "read" by a universal scanner, and the pet can be traced to its owners. Identification tags should include your phone number and be securely fastened to your pet's collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site, whether it's a public shelter or a friend's home.

* Assemble an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include pet food, bottled water, medications, vaccination records and a current photo of your pet. Also include your veterinarian's phone number in case you need immediate medical advice.

* Have a pet carrier and leash readily accessible in the event of evacuation.

* If you have no other choice but to leave your pets at home, keep your dogs and cats inside in separate rooms, preferably without a window, such as a garage, bathroom or utility room that can be easily cleaned. Leave enough food and water to last at least 48 hours. Post a notice advising what pets are inside the house and your evacuation site/phone number, so rescue workers can contact you.

For horses (or other large pets):

* Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. Due to their size and transporting requirements, it's essential that evacuation plans are in place beforehand. Know where you can take your horse in an emergency, whether boarding stables, racetracks or fairgrounds. If you live in an area with lots of horses, plan ahead by setting up a community "buddy" system for evacuation.

* Secure permanent identification on your horse by microchip, tattoo or freeze branding. If that's not possible, supply temporary identification by braiding an ID tag into the mane, writing your name/phone number with a livestock crayon on the horse's coat or even shaving it onto your animal's flank.

* Have your horse trailer hitched and pointed toward the road. If you do not own a trailer, make plans ahead of time with friends or another horse owner to trailer your animal.

* Prepare an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include vaccination records, medical history, identification photos of your animal and your veterinarian's phone number.

* Keep halters ready for each horse that include: the horse's name, your name/phone number and a separate emergency contact number.

* Keep a reserve supply of horse feed and water on hand.

If your animal becomes lost during an emergency, visit your local animal shelter at least every other day. Bring a photo and veterinary records with you, if possible, to identify your animal.

The CVMA seeks to ensure that all pet owners and their animals receive the optimal advice and health care they need. For more information regarding animal care during natural disasters, please contact Melissa Stallings at the CVMA at 916-649-0599.

For more information and to see past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center at .

The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 5,000 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.