We have all heard almost enough about Hurricane Katrina. But a special on public television about the pet rescue, reminds us that there are many things we need to learn from this disaster.
Katrina was the worst animal disaster in United States history. It's estimated that 250,000 pets lived in New Orleans, and 15,000 of them were rescued. Wow, what a statistic.
Many people locked their pets inside the house with some food and water, thinking they would only be gone a few days. Some turned their pets loose to fend for themselves. Some even tied their pets to a front porch, which was sure death.
Most of the rescued pets had gone for two weeks or more without food and water. There was water everywhere, but it was quickly contaminated.
Pets left behind were terrified and confused as well as starving and dehydrated. Rescuers could see their fear turn to relief when they approached and took them to safety.
The rescuers urge pet owners not to leave their pets behind when evacuated.
Because of logistical and health issues, animals have not been part of the evacuation process.
Since Katrina, pressure has been put on government agencies to allow people to evacuate with their pets. Humans accept a grave responsibility when they assume the care of a domesticated animal. These animals are no longer able to fend for themselves. In a disaster, that dependence can be fatal.
June is National Disaster Preparedness Month. Now is the best time to make preparations for a quick exit with your pets. After recent wildfires caused evacuations in Flagstaff and Sedona, we know the danger is real.
People with horses and other large animals or farm animals also need to be making plans. Leaving animals behind should not be an option.
Paws in the Park in Payson will be ready once again to house dogs at the dog park and some provisions will hopefully be made for cats.
The Humane Society of the United States has helpful hints for evacuation preparations and they have a special Web page for Arizona pet owners. Knowing the threat is real, how many of us have our pet duffel ready to go?
Lou Guyton, director of HSUS Southwest regional office said, "If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your pet." He urges all pet owners to take their pets with them when they evacuate.
"Pets who are turned loose or left behind to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, accidents or exposure to the elements."
Since many evacuation shelters do not accept pets, make plans ahead of time as to where you will go or who might take your pet while you are staying at a shelter.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends an emergency supply kit for each pet in the household. The kit should contain: a three day supply of food and drinking water, bowls for food and water, plastic bags for waste disposal, current photos and physical descriptions including details of markings, a collar and ID tag with a cell phone number or number for relative or friend, medications and health records showing dates of all vaccinations, license and first aid supplies, leashes chew proof tie outs and a sturdy carrier for each animal which is large enough for the pet to be comfortable. Cats need a carrier large enough for them to move around in and also have room for a small litter box. Bring along extra litter and a scooper. A microchip is one of the most reliable forms of identification for all pets.
Check your pet's health records today. Are all vaccinations up to date? If he needs to go to a shelter, shots will be required. Dogs brought in might be sick. Protect your pets with up to date vaccinations and rabies shots.
For more information about preparing for evacuation, check out the Humane Society's Web site, www.hsus.org/disaster.
On a lighter note, try this for fun. The 2006 Pets and Pals Photo Contest, sponsored by the American Humane Association and Bush's Baked Beans, is seeking photos in four categories: Pets demonstrating special skills or tricks, Best friends, Kids and pets and Down on the farm. Winners from each category will receive a prize package from AHA. The top winner will receive a prize package worth $5,000. The contest deadline is July 31, 2006. For more information, visit the Web site www.americanhumane.org/petsandpals or call (800) 227-4645.
Be sure to provide shade and lots of fresh drinking water for all your pets during these hot days. Rinse the water bowls daily and fill with fresh water. Put out several bowls in case one spills. It is amazing how much water our pets consume in a day.
-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.