Chris Kolste, DVM, Heritage Animal Hospital

As I sat on my desk one evening in August contemplating what would be valuable information for the pet-owning families of Cache Valley, I could barely see the lights of Logan through the thick smoke. My eyes watered and my throat burned from the smoke-filled air. I wondered what it would be like if the fires were closer, threatening the homes in my neighborhood and causing an emergency evacuation. Was I prepared to get my family out safely? And, what about my two dogs and two cats?

Just over a decade ago, after Hurricane Katrina, a young boy sheltered at the Superdome was trying to board a bus to Houston while carrying his small, white dog. The dog, though small enough it would not take the space of a human survivor, was taken away from the boy as he sobbed, “Snowball! Snowball!”

After Hurricane Katrina, the media was filled with many similar, heartbreaking stories of owners being separated from their pets. These stories demonstrated the true nature of the human-animal bond and helped fuel Congress to pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act that impels the rescue efforts of pets during natural disasters.

Preparing a pet emergency kit will help pet owners ensure the best for their pets if disaster were to strike. I suggest you include the following:

  • A three-day supply of pet food and water, along with a food bowl and can opener. Canned, rather than dry food, is best because your pet will need less water to drink.
  • Proper identification for your pet in the event you are separated. This includes a collar and tag on your pet with your contact information. Microchips can be helpful as well, especially if the tag gets lost. A picture of you and your pet is also highly recommended.
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records as well as any medication your pet is on.
  • Sanitation needs, including litter and a litter box for cats, plastic bags for dog waste, and extra newspaper.
  • Bedding, treats, toys, and leashes.
  • A crate or pet carrier large enough for your pet to be comfortable in as a temporary home for several days, if needed. For your cat, the carrier would need room for a litter box.

All these items could be pre-assembled into an emergency kit inside the crate or carrier and stored in a place that would be quick and convenient to access in case of an emergency evacuation.

Our lives are enriched in many ways from pet ownership and companionship. We are their stewards and their welfare and well-being is our responsibility, so be prepared.