If its not safe for you, its not safe for them: Always evacuate with your pets


Do you remember when it was okay to smack your children? Well from the same era, it was also okay to leave your pets behind if you evacuated.

Leaving pets behind was FEMA’s policy back in 2005, that was until Hurricane Katrina struck and over a thousand people and over 50,000 pets died. The Fritz Institute found that of those that chose to stay behind, 44% did so because they could not take their pets. This is why the tweet I spotted on the Stuff Live Feed today citing a QBE infographic is something that is at odds with international best practice for emergency management.

The lessons of Hurricane Katrina is also why the US passed Federal legislation namely the Pets Evacuation & Transportation Standards Act (2006) that now requires pets and service animals to be included in evacuation plans.

Leaving your pets behind creates many issues. Firstly, pet owners may refuse to evacuate if pets are not included in the evacuation.

Secondly, pet owners often attempt to illegally return to the evacuated area putting rescue personnel at risk.

Thirdly, it is illegal to abandon an animal; and in New Zealand a farmer was convicted for failing to move stock who later drown despite being warned. I don’t think anyone in New Zealand could claim they didn’t know about the Gita warnings. There is no excuse to leave pets behind to drown. A documentary called Dark Water Rising (available from Amazon) showed decomposing pets inside houses following Hurricane Katrina, who had run out of food and water, with many of the owners thinking they would be back within a day or two. Don’t make the same mistake.

So if you want to get ready for Gita here are some tips so that your pets are kept safe:

  1. Bring your pets inside, so you can easily find them if you do have to evacuate.
  2. Ensure you have a cage for every small animal. Label the cage or box.
  3. Buy a muzzle for each dog so if emergency services have to help you, they won’t be reluctant to pick up your Land Shark/Monster Cross. Each dog should have a leash too (and ideally a crate).
  4. Identify friends or family that are pet friendly that you can evacuate to if you are likely to be affected by the storm.
  5. Have a grab/evacuation bag for your pet containing its normal food, water, vaccination card, brush, toys, poo bags, and blanket. Some cleaning products wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
  6. Make sure all your pets have identification, and are microchipped. It is a bit late leaving it to today, so at least book in a vet appointment to get any unchipped animals chipped in the coming weeks. If your pet is microchipped make sure your details are up to date with the NZ Companion Animal Register and that you have someone outside the area as secondary contact.
  7. Take a photo of your pet so if you become separated you have a picture to help with posters and lost/found websites such as http://www.lostpet.co.nz
  8. Never leave your pet behind. It’s not the 1990’s and it is not okay to leave them behind when you evacuate.

Further information is available from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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