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Emergency evacuation plans must include your pets

Be sure to include your pets when devising an emergency preparedness plan. Photo provided.
Be sure to include your pets when devising an emergency preparedness plan. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Oklahoma is in the midst of major wildfires in the western part of the state as well as the fact that tornado season is underway.

No matter what the emergency, an escape plan should include your pets, said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

To date, fire has consumed more than 366,000 acres in Oklahoma. Many Oklahomans have suffered losses of homes, equipment and livestock.

In a recent article by Washington Post reporter Matthew Cappucci, Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman stated, “Tornado season in Oklahoma runs from January 1 to December 31.”

Although the season has started later than usual, Smith says May is typically the month with the most tornadic activity.  “We all kind of breathe a sigh of relief once May is over,” Smith said.

As Oklahoma’s tornado season gets underway, sixteen tornados have hit the state so far.

“When an emergency or natural disaster occurs, your survival, as well as that of your pets, depends on the plan you have in place,” Gledt said. “Your pets most likely can’t survive on their own. It’s imperative to be ready to evacuate with your pets should the need arise.”

According to Gledt, the first thing to consider is finding a safe place to go. Because of the health regulations in some states, disaster shelters set up by the American Red Cross cannot accept pets, except for service animals that assist individuals with handicaps.

When developing a plan, put together an emergency preparedness kit that is easy to carry, water repellent and sturdy.

“The things you’ll need to include in the emergency kit may vary from person to person. Medicines and other medical equipment is a must,” Gledt said. “When it comes to your pets, be sure to include veterinary records and a recent photo of your pet, preferably with you. Also, food, a can opener, food dishes and bottles of water should be included in your pet’s emergency kit.”

Because an evacuation may be hectic and stressful, a pet may become agitated. Gledt suggests including a strong leash and muzzle in case your pet becomes frightened. For small pets, keep a pet carrier stored with the emergency kit so it is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Giedt said pet owners should consider the possibility they will not be at home at the time of an emergency.

“It’s a good idea for a trusted friend or neighbor to have access to your pets so they can transport them to a prearranged safe meeting place,” she said. “Be sure this person knows where your pets may like to hide to make locating the pet easier.”

It is important that a pet’s identification tags are up to date and include important information such as the owner’s name and phone number. If your pet should escape during an emergency, the identification tag is his ticket home. Consider microchipping your pet as a permanent means of identification.

“While we certainly hope the fires are under control very soon, take these steps now to help ensure your pets are safe. This same information is vital during storm season and other emergencies, as well,” Giedt said.

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