NEW YORK – Pet owners in the path of Hurricane Irene need to be prepared for their pets as well as themselves.
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House pets are as vulnerable as people during a natural disaster and a well-thought-out preparedness plan will go a long way in keeping them out of harms way.
A person who plans for disaster is going to be far more able to safeguard herself and her animal companions, according to Sara Varsa, director of operations for the Humane Societys Animal Rescue Team.
Just as you would make a disaster kit for yourself and family, make one for your pet that includes medical records and medication, food and water with can openers, leashes, muzzles and carriers. And the Insurance Information Institute recommends bringing a copy of your pet insurance contact information and policy number if you have it.
Here is a list of tips, cobbled together from suggestions from the Red Cross, ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-welfare agencies.
1. Prepare for your pet as you would yourself and your family with disaster supply bags, food and water, identification, leashes and carriers, first aid and proof of vaccinations.
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2. At the first sign of dangerous weather conditions, bring your pet indoors.
3. If your pets are startled, make sure they can't escape.
4. Know which hotels and shelters are pet-friendly ahead of time.
5. Don't wait until the official evacuation is declared. Leave early or you might be ordered to leave your pet behind.
6. If you do evacuate and have to leave your pet behind, be sure to leave a note on the door so that rescue teams will know.
7. Make sure your pet has an identification tag secured to it. RedRover.org also recommends that you include a temporary tag in addition, which carries your temporary contact information and/or a phone number of a friend or family member.
8. Stay clear of windows, fireplaces and appliances. Keep pets out of the kitchen.
9. Pets have feelings too and could freak out after a disaster. The Red Cross warns that your pet's behavior "may change dramatically" after a disaster.
10. If damage occurs outside, be prepared to confine your pet to keep it far from destroyed property, power lines and flooded areas.
11. Don't assume your cat or dog can find their way back without help. A disaster can wipe out the scent markers that allow them to find their way home.